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The Search for Remedies to Problems of Growth

November 27, 1988

We are totally dependent on a functioning Interstate 405 in central coastal Orange County to enable people to get where they want to go. When Interstate 405 recently gridlocked, the entire area was gridlocked. You couldn't get anywhere. Every surface street was a parking lot.

Freeway designers tell us that their roads are designed with a certain load capacity in mind. When that capacity is exceeded, traffic ceases to move. Thus, in order to move traffic, either the road must be capable of handling the volumes presented or the volume must be adjusted to the handling capacity of the road.

There is a major destabilizing factor in this equation: Growth. At some point every road becomes incapable of handling an increase in traffic. This is inevitably caused by growth. The solution lies in one or more of the following: enlarging the traffic-handling capacity of the roads, capping the traffic volume by growth control and providing alternative forms of transportation (e.g., mass transit).

Growth control is the simplest solution to the problem. In Costa Mesa builders (and friends on the City Council) want us to accept massive increases in traffic volume in exchange for a partial contribution to the cost of road improvements needed before their newly generated increases in traffic arrive. This just puts us further behind than we are now.

And if, in some fantasy version of reality, they could move all the old and all the new traffic on their super-roads, would we want to live surrounded by massive super-roads? We don't have to give up our way of life to solve our traffic problems.

The secret to Manhattan's ability to function in the presence of extreme density is its mass transit system. The bulk of suburban commuters come to their jobs by a network of railroads, subways, buses and taxis. Without this, Manhattan would be in irreversible gridlock.

We cannot "Manhattanize" Costa Mesa (or any other part of Orange County) unless we have a mass transit system in place. Until we have a mass transit system designed and funded, it is irresponsible of our leaders to be talking about Manhattanization.

The simplest solution to our ever-growing traffic problems is to plan growth to move traffic in new directions, plan roads to handle what we have to do now, plan how to pay for new circulation arteries, find the money, and put building on hold until all of the above are done.

The public is being ill-served by its public servants. Either the "servants" need to begin to serve or the public will have to perform government's functions by initiative or by replacing those officials through the recall process. Let's get to work. There is much to be done. Several decades of non-planning and unrestricted growth need to be remedied.

STEPHEN GOLDBERGER

Costa Mesa

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