Sunday, January 29, 2006

The Freeway Factor

Once upon a time, there was an ideal place to live called Southern California. What made it so ideal was it had two urban centers. One was Hollywood, the film capital of the world. It was full of producers, directors, actors, and myriad of crew people. The other was Los Angeles, a budding metropolitan city, chock full of bankers, lawyers, and various business people.
Separating these two towns and surrounding the entire area was a primarily rural landscape. Tree farms were dominant - mostly of the citrus and walnut variety.

Many of the executives of Hollywood and Los Angeles lived in the surrounding rural San Fernando and San Gabriel Valleys. These well-to-do types liked the comforts and seclusion of country living. There was a problem, though. It took considerable time driving back and forth over windy canyon roads from home and work. So, they came up with a brilliant idea.

So, a couple of freeways were built. All was wonderful.

In fact, the executives figured out that real-estate values went way up. They decided to take advantage of the situation.

Arteries were constructed. Almost instantly, gas stations and restaurants were built where the arteries met the freeways. Gone were many of the orange groves. People moved near these arteries to take advantage of the superfast freeways.

Soon, the executives got a little concerned.

Eventually, Southern California became a big urban mess. It turns out, adding freeways only adds too many people and more congestion than before.

Of course, the executives moved to escape the concrete jungle to nice rural communities like Denver and Phoenix.

People can be really stupid.


Erik said...

While not necessarily disagreeing with you my question to you on your post would be what would the solution be? Every time they talk either about a new freeway or extending the subway or adding more light-rail lines or even busways the not in my backyard people stop it. What is the solution here?

Robert E Wilson said...

First of all, here's what won't work:

Bandaid solutions such as spending millions (maybe billions) of dollars to widen existing freeways. If you build it, they will come, and come, and come. Add a lane to the 405, and lighten the traffic load for what, 5 minutes?

A partial solution is to continue mass-transit development. Cities in the east don't have quite the situation that western cities do because they had established transit systems and never got as dependant on super highways. That's why I mentioned Denver and Phoenix. Both these cities (and others) are following the same pattern as Los Angeles.

The only real solution is to destroy the whole paradigm of personal transportation. We feel we are entitled to go to our garage, get into our personal transportation and go anywhere we please. When fuel prices and traffic cramp our "entitlement", we bitch and moan. We actually think our government is responsible for the maintaining of this "entitlement".

The world is too crowded and polluted for this to be an entitlement. It is not our right, nor it should be to waste such precious natural resources on most of what we use our cars for.

Erik said...

I agree but remember the stink everyone raises when they built the subway? When they try to build anything that will HELP ease traffic?