Just in case you had any doubt, it’s now clear that California’s war on drivers has escalated.
Three weeks ago, for example, Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed a bill that would have allowed all motorists to use the carpool lane on two L.A. freeways during off-peak times. That may have seemed to you like an easy, no-cost way to relieve traffic congestion, but not to the governor. Brown shot it down, he said, because he believes carpool lanes are necessary “to reduce pollution and maximize the use of freeways.” Yeah, right; those miles-long lines of idling cars next to an open carpool lane at 8 p.m. sure help to reduce pollution.
But there are other examples of how our elected leaders lately have declared a surge in the longstanding war against motorists.
As you can see in the article on page 1 of this issue, Santa Monica is considering moves aimed at curtailing cars there. And here’s the biggest example: The city of Los Angeles a couple of months ago decided to push ahead with a 20-year plan that – in this city known for traffic jams – calls for taking away what was described as “hundreds of miles” of lanes now dedicated to cars so that there’d be more room for buses, bicycles and pedestrians. City leaders are calling it Mobility Plan 2035 apparently without any awareness of the irony.
One bureaucrat actually pooh-poohed the suggestion that reducing car lanes increases congestion. She was quoted in the Los Angeles Times as saying: “Slower traffic can actually in some ways accommodate more cars moving through an area.”
If that’s the case, cars should be moving unfettered all over Los Angeles this very minute.
We’ve known there’s been a long-term war on drivers. Just look at how state and local governments have ignored street and bridge repairs. For years.
The group called TRIP reported in July that California had the worst road conditions in the country. San Francisco was the worst city in the country with Los Angeles a close second. Syria probably has fewer potholes. A different group said bridges statewide are similarly decrepit; the 10 freeway bridge near the Arizona border collapsed this summer.
Add it all up, and well more than $100 billion worth of repairs and rebuilding are needed, yet the state budget included no new money for it. Having diverted tax money that should have gone to road and bridge repairs all along, the state is now talking about imposing new taxes, if you demanding taxpayers actually expect bridges not to collapse and roads not to break your axle every other week.
Yeah, this is a war all right. A nasty war of attrition on drivers. The goal, of course, is to make it so uncomfortable, so expensive for you to drive that it will force you to take mass transit.
Look, I think most of us agree that it’d be nice if we could ride a bicycle to work and take a train for an evening out. Maybe someday we’ll get there. But Los Angeles today is not like Paris or Tokyo or even New York, where long-established train systems and dense cities mean mass transit makes sense right now.
We barely have a train system in Los Angeles, and the build-out is painfully slow. The so-called subway to the sea isn’t scheduled to be completed until 2035. Gosh, that’s probably longer than it’ll take the drip-drip-drip of Hillary Clinton’s email controversy to end. Face it, a truly usable subway network won’t get built in spread-out Los Angeles for decades, maybe for well more than 50 years. If you’re reading this column, chances are you will not see it.
I don’t understand why California’s political class can’t adopt an all-of-the-above position. Continue methodically building out mass transit systems while accommodating automobiles and trucks with better and more roads. I’m convinced that people will gladly take the train or a bus or a bicycle when it makes sense for them. But because only 5.8 percent of metro L.A. commuters regularly used mass transit in 2013 (it was 5.9 percent in 1980), we have to conclude that cars remain the preferred choice for the vast majority of residents and probably will for years.
We motorists are tired of the punishment. Please, politicians, de-escalate. Stop the war.
All I am saying is give peace a chance.
Charles Crumpley is editor of the Business Journal. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.