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Transportation Woes

May 12, 1991

The Times' article of April 25 concerning revision of the city's Coastal Transportation Corridor Specific Plan ordinance highlights a critical failing of the city bureaucracies--this time the L.A. City Department of Transportation.

All too often these bureaucracies pursue their narrowly focused logic to the exclusion of the public interest.

In this instance, the Transportation Department says we must mitigate traffic impacts by widening streets, and therefore this ordinance should encourage developers to do more in this respect. In fact, the department is quoted as complaining that new development is not moving fast enough to support such programs.

Whoa there! New development brings new traffic to fill up the new capacity. So how can we ever get ahead of the traffic problem by encouraging development? The answer is: We can't. The department's solution to the traffic problem is to make it worse!

What was not mentioned in the article was that commercial development generates the most money for traffic mitigation because it generates the most traffic. In the area covered by this ordinance, there are more than 30 million square feet of new commercial development--and over half a million new vehicle trips daily--proposed between Santa Monica and LAX. The Transportation Department complains that we are delaying this development, and that prevents them from trying to solve traffic problems, problems we won't have if we don't build this new development!

On the other hand, The Times' article also reported that Councilwoman Ruth Galanter proposes to prevent most of this new traffic from happening in the first place by channeling new development toward the lowest traffic-generating uses, such as residential. But these uses produce so little new traffic that they don't necessarily justify street widening--and that's a problem if you're in the business of widening streets.

Many of us, who live every day with clogged streets that have been "mitigated" before, concluded long ago that Galanter's approach is right and the Transportation Department's approach is flawed. The latter will only lead to widening of residential streets and narrowing of sidewalks that should never be invaded by heavy traffic.

We cannot allow narrow perspectives to substitute for the balanced judgments of those who see a larger picture. In Ruth Galanter, we have one of the ablest minds in perceiving and acting in the general interest that we've had in this city for many years.

As one who pays for all this government and has seen the failure of past, narrow "conventional wisdom" regarding traffic mitigation, I vote for Galanter's approach.


Marina del Rey

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