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March 7, 2017 > Editorial: The truth is out there

Editorial: The truth is out there

Sometimes it is difficult to separate fact and fantasy, but as in a good science fiction novel or film, basic assumptions usually have a solid basis. Reality can be stretched to the breaking point when projecting beyond what is known. Sometimes, as time passes, a reasonable facsimile of the future vision is achieved but reality can also turn and twist in a different and unexpected direction. Science fiction has the advantage of unbounded imagination but why not use that freedom to tackle real problems.

As we look at our present traffic situation, clogged, sometimes gridlocked streets are blamed on pass through traffic aided by apps. Drivers are directed from freeways to surface arterials, even residential streets. In order to save a few minutes, city thoroughfares are compromised. Intersections, graded on efficiency from A-F are rarely given good scores, often Ds and Fs. The interesting thing about an F grade is that the score doesnÕt change even as the situation gets worse. An A can become an A- or B+ but as traffic is so degraded that an intersection rates a failure rating, it just remains as a failure. We cannot simply bulldoze surrounding structures to keep expanding capacity indefinitely, so a different approach is required even if the future is uncertain.

Planners and traffic engineers are trying to solve the dilemma of pass-through traffic and city growth too. There is a tendency to focus on intra-city traffic using Transit Oriented Development. A common extension of current facts is that people will have less reliance on individually owned automobiles, more on mass transit and therefore, less impact on city streets. Is this fact or fantasy? The assumption is that short term automobile rentals and Uber-type transportation will dominate. This may be the case in the long run, but then who is buying all those cars that dealerships are selling? Also, are we planning more mass transit within our cities? Will people be able to move easily within our borders using jitney buses, trolleys or another form of transportation? Is there any plan to think beyond the reality of today filled with individually owned automobiles and a future driverless society?

If a driverless population is the future, where are all of the cars Ð new and old - going to be when we become a driverless society? Why create electric charging stations in new developments if car ownership will soon be defunct? Why are automakers like Tesla ramping up production for individual buyers when the future is filled with people who use alternative forms of transportation? Will pass-through traffic be gone too?

If the true problem of our area is traffic simply using our city streets as means to go from a near boundary to the far side of our community, the current solution to alter residential street patterns can help, but doesnÕt address the core problem. How can traffic from freeways be discouraged from entering our cities in the first place? Watching the metering of on-ramps as a means of moderating additional cars from entering freeways at peak hours, can the same metering plan can be employed for cars leaving the freeway for city streets? How about using technology to identify and charge those simply using our streets as a means to transit through? Our streets suffer the wear and tear of traffic that has no business here. Buses that transport workers from here to work outside our area should help pay for street maintenance too. If we are able to moderate the flow of traffic through our cities, maybe surface streets will move up the grading scale instead of declining to a point where failure is commonplace.

Are these observations fact or fantasy? You can decide, but there is too much at stake to simply watch as we add more people, cars and bemoan our traffic dilemma.

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