Can new trains, busways and bike lanes end Southern California gridlock?
In a meeting in Pasadena meant to discuss solutions to Southern California’s traffic woes, state politicians kept returning to the problems at hand, also known as the 5, 10, 15, 101, 210 and the 405 freeways — among others.
Once functioning, flowing freeways have become time wasters and stress producers. Participants at an Assembly committee hearing on Thursday had few answers for fixing the jammed freeways. One said what you see is what you will get — even after the passage of SB1, a statewide gasoline and car tax increase that went into effect Wednesday..
“The highway system we have today is likely what we’ll have for the next 30 years or even 100 years,” said Duarte City Councilman and Metro board member John Fasana.
Chairman of the Select Committee on Regional Transportation Solutions, Assemblyman Chris Holden, D-Pasadena, called for “21st Century” solutions — except autonomous cars and the gig economy’s solution — ridesharing services — are often not part of the plan.
But even more traditional alternatives to solo driving, such as dedicated bus lanes, rail lines, bike lanes and carpools can add more problems to a complex dynamic consisting of freeways which hardly move and people who do — usually farther away from job centers in a quest for affordable housing.
Even when such transit solutions aimed at getting cars off the freeways are built, they can raise new issues in a transportation world that’s changing.
The law of unintended consequences
San Diego added a dedicated rapid bus from San Diego State University to downtown. “What we hadn’t really thought through was how to connect people to those transit stations,” acknowledged Coleen Clementson, principal regional planner for San Diego Associated Governments.
Because San Diego transportation authorities did not plan for ridesharing services, Uber and Lyft drivers use train depots and bus stops to pickup and drop off passengers, she said.
The problem, known as first mile/last mile, has plagued many of the new light-rail lines in Los Angeles, Santa Monica and the San Gabriel Valley. People can’t get to the stations because they are too far away. Without convenience, no one will give up their car.