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TRAFF-ICK! : Diary of a Distressed Commuter: Going Nowhere Fast


"I'm gettin' bugged drivin' up and down the same old strip." --the Beach Boys

Worse traffic? Is this possible when you're already blowing a gasket just trying to get out of the driveway in the morning? There's plenty to be bugged about. Too much.

How about those people on bikes who think they are driving cars? They are not cars . There are no bikes at the drive-in. And that Day-Glo helmet is not going to stop a Chrysler.

And what about those people who pull out in front of you as if their shoes were on fire, then immediately slow down to 20 miles under the speed limit? Or the ones who stop for no apparent reason, or their cousins who won't go for any apparent reason when the light turns green?

Then there are those veteran drivers--the ones who bought their cars off the showroom floor 40 years ago and are determined to make their cars last 40 more years by driving 20 m.p.h.

The crisis in education? You have no idea how bad it really is. Forget the SATs; let's get to the real basics--kids today can't tell red from green. Every time the light turns red, some kid walks right in front of you. He can't even read those goofy little generic signs. The red hand means stay put, and the little green stick figure running for his life means just that--take your chance, run. What's so difficult about that?

And in the car itself, it's just as bad. The radio seems to play half as much music as it used to because stations have to spend too much time on traffic reports. KVEN airs traffic updates every 10 minutes or so during morning drive time. So what are you supposed to do, just sit there like an idiot while your blood and your radiator boil?

Outside your car, it doesn't get any better. There is a variety of people waiting to make you pay for the privilege of driving--mechanics, tow truck drivers, insurance people.

You don't have to take my word for all of this. Traffic engineers decide how bad it really is. Just like teachers, they assign letter grades to intersections. "A," as always, is swell while "F," as always, isn't. "D" intersections operate at 81-90% capacity, an "E" operates at 91-100% capacity while an "F" tries to operate at more than 100% of its capacity. In layman's terms, a "D" is a headache, an "E" is a migraine and an "F" is an ulcer. Some of the county's worst traffic nightmares happen in unincorporated areas, thus they don't get a grade. But anyone who has ever been on Los Angeles Avenue and Saticoy Avenue or California 33 at rush hour knows that a "Z" would suffice.

Some streets are worse than others, and at specific times, such as rush hour, should be avoided. The grades apply to rush-hour traffic only. And why do they call it rush hour? Everyone is rushing, but nobody's going anywhere.

While not all-inclusive, here are some places you probably wouldn't enjoy at peak hours:

"You can't get there from here . . . "--R.E.M.

Los Angeles Avenue and Madera Road, Simi Valley (D):

The first thing you notice about Simi Valley is the sign entering town telling you to turn your radio dial to such and such a channel for traffic information. Here's all the information you need to know about this intersection--it's right near K mart.

Los Angeles Avenue and Erringer Road, Simi Valley (F):

This is the only "F" level intersection in town. It's even worse when the train comes, closing Erringer.

Los Angeles Avenue and Spring Road, Moorpark (D):

Moorpark has nearly quadrupled in size in the last 15 minutes or so, and many of the new residents can be found here at rush hour. Five lanes head toward Simi Valley, many packed with semis from the Simi Valley Freeway trying to avoid the truck scales on the Ventura Freeway. The left turn lanes would work reasonably well at crunch time if there were only a zillion fewer cars.

Moorpark Avenue and High Street, Moorpark (D):

To cruise the main drag in Moorpark, which is High Street, the easiest route is north on Moorpark Avenue, then left on High. The problem is obvious--there is a stop sign at this intersection. Also, there are drivers turning left from High onto Moorpark and railroad tracks a few yards south. Bring a book.

Ventura Freeway and Hampshire Road, Thousand Oaks: (F):

This is the take-a-number-and-wait off-ramp, both directions. From the south, commuters who work in Los Angeles but live in Thousand Oaks should be home in plenty of time for a cup of coffee before going back to work. What's the problem? Only so many cars can go left on any given little green arrow. Other "Fs" along the same drag of freeway include the off-ramps at Lynn Road northbound and Wendy Drive southbound.

Daily Drive and Carmen Drive, Camarillo (D):

The worst part here is heading north on Daily, then waiting for the lights so you can turn. If you go left across the freeway, you can make it to Ventura Boulevard (formerly the main drag) before supper is cold, especially if your stars are in alignment. If you go right on Daily, then you can hurry up and wait again when you get to the shopping center.

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