Monday, April 3, 2017

Does Anyone Work Anymore?

The Los Angeles Basin Freeway System - I-10 from Santa Monica to Palm Springs. Orange lines show our freeways.
     Last Friday I had to drive into Century City, a high rent district inside Los Angeles, CA for a meeting with my lawyers. Since I have moved to Palm Springs last year, I have done just about everything I can to not drive into the land of OZ. My trip to LAX last December 21st was easily a modern version of Dante's INFERNO. I had entered the 7 circles of hell. 
OMG! Where am I?
      It is not without justification that locals hate the drive and visitors are terrified of the "basin" because, truthfully, as one wag said, the signs on the Los Angeles freeways are useless merely informing those who know where they are going that they are almost there. Its that bad. Does a sign directing you to Santa Monica tell  you, you are heading west? We know that it means west and that Santa Monica is as far west as you can drive before hitting the Pacific Ocean. Would you know? Similar signs adorn the freeways with city names instead of a simple north, south, east or west. But I digress.
     What was particularly irritating were the digital highway signs that are supposed to be telling you about slowdowns, accidents, etc. Instead each and every one this day was telling us to "SLOW DOWN AND SAVE A LIFE." If we went any slower we would be in a parking lot not unlike that silly opening scene in "La La Land." Yes, the freeways do get like that. No, nobody is dancing with joy or anything else for the matter. At those moments there is no joy. 
     Driving in I used the Waze App on my iPhone as it is generally better about warning you about slowdowns, accidents and such as you drive to your destination. I expected a 2 ½ hour drive and that was what I got. I was amazed at the volume of traffic that late in the morning going to Century City and beyond but didn't give any thought to it. I, for once, was on time!
This is a typical day in LA ... its not even rush hour. Yes, it can get worse!
    However, it was when I got back on the freeway at 1:00 pm that the volume of traffic surprised me. The freeway was jammed ... I mean coming and going. Where were these people coming from? Don't they work? Doesn't anybody work? Why are SO many cars out on the freeway at 1:00 pm?
     Knowing I-10 can be a tough drive that can take hours to get anywhere heading east, the program guided me to the CA 60, a state highway that parallels the 10 rejoining it well out into the desert. However, I know that going through Riverside and Redlands, besides the millions (billions?) spent on improving the exchanges, has in fact, made it worse. Ramps fly overhead and as you creep by at 5 mph you can see huge trucks, busses and masses of cars soaring overhead just waiting to join the chaos down below.
     I had to pee after about 2 hours. I got off at Legg Lake in Whittier Narrows, a county park, that has a restroom. I did my duty quickly and rejoined the hordes heading east. Later friends told me that I should have just stayed in LA. I was caught in the Friday Vegas traffic heading to I-15, another miserable drive where, it seems, millions are heading to sin city creeping up 4 and 5,000 foot mountain freeways at about 5 mph so they can lose their money. I hold out my hands to my gambling friends with this comment: I don't pay out either!   
MetroLink covers vast areas of the basin. Is it enough?
      Is there a cure for this? Obviously, a far better public transit system is needed and citizens of places like the Bay Area, San Francisco in particular, eschew cars in favor of the Bart. They also have a fairly extensive bus system. Just parking a car there though is a challenge and a place to park your car is oftentimes as challenging as finding a place to live. I have heard of people paying $100,000 for a garage!
     The ancient Romans decreed that no deliveries of any kind could be made during the day in Rome or other major cities. Merchants had to receive their wares at night. Could it get to that? Try breaking through the line of semi's on any given day on either the I-10 or CA 60 heading east.
     But the elephant in the room is why are there so many people on the road at all times of the day? Weekends are worse. If you don't leave early enough say Saturday morning that trip that should take one hour takes three.
This could be considered rush hour traffic ... but at 1:00 pm?
       In Tokyo before you can buy a car you must prove that you have a place to park it. You see some very creative parking let me tell you! London levies a tax for cars coming into the city center each day. I guess there's a fee you pay when you park your car. I can remember skipping back and forth on Cabrillo Blvd. in Santa Barbara in the late 50's. You can just about do that again as the traffic is so bad and soooo slow it would be difficult to get hit.
     Friends tell me that Beijing, a city I remember seeing with streets filled with one speed bikes as a kid, is so congested and the driving so bad, that immigrants that live here refuse to drive when visiting home. Instead they become white haired at the mercy of their Barney Oldfield cab driver or simply take mass transit. I know that I would never drive in Hong Kong. Why would you? There are double decked buses and cabs everywhere plus mass transit that takes you just about everywhere you need to go. The airport is a 40 minute ride and is cheap.
Depending on where you start the trip to Vegas it can take
up to 8 hours. It's under 300 miles away.
     Part of the reason Los Angeles is so bad is the distances involved. The metro area spans Ventura on the Pacific ocean 90 miles from Los Angeles, across Los Angeles and across two more huge counties and south to almost kissing San Diego. There are hundreds of square miles with almost 20 million people. Here in the Coachella Valley we hold our breath as we can hear the wolf at the door and it grows like an oil spill east.
     Oddly, there are railroad tracks and such to here and beyond. The other end of the I-10 freeway is Jacksonville, FL. The Sunset Limited and freight trains go near Palm Springs and the MetroLink that I would take to San Bernardino could easily be expanded east. Amtrak, Southern Pacific and MetroLink use the same rails. It certainly would work for me.
     Over the decades a high speed train has been proposed going from Las Vegas to a variety of cities in the basin. None has been built. The other less painful but more expensive means to Vegas is to fly. However, the time I tried that it took an hour to retrieve my bag, more time than it took to fly there.
Just a mere 100 years ago there was this traffic jam.
     Today, the irony of all time finally surfaced when Gov. Jerry Brown announced that he was seeking a 12¢ a gallon gasoline tax increase, 20¢ on diesel and $100 a year for electric's (this after he berated the public into driving more electric cars and seeking better milage per gallon of gas). As the law of unintended consequences has shown, you buy less gas, or no gas at all, you collect fewer taxes. After watching our CalTrans work, I think he should rather be opening up infrastructure improvements to competitive bid. City, county and state government would save billions ... more than enough each year over what he is attempting to tax us. Gotta protect those jobs. Politicians simply see the public as cash cows. Why not spend it ... its not their money!
     Another innovation that the CHP has ignored are drones. Some states are using them now for emergencies, car chases, etc. I propose that the CHP use them to monitor driving. How many times is grandma in the fast lane going barely 55 mph, two lanes have trucks going, if we are lucky, their 55 mph speed limit in a turtle race that literally chokes the freeways in a noose. Find those cars, photograph them and ticket them. You know I'm right. How many times have you been creeping along and suddenly for no reason the traffic opens. The holdup finally got off the freeway. 
     So the question remains ... do people work? From several other experiences I've had over the past week and my visit to Target today, they may work but many, far too many, work not very well.

Thank you for reading my blog. I invite you to take the time to read earlier blogs where the emphasis here is to explore the ways art and design affects our daily lives ... and always has. I share with you what inspires me with the hope that it will inspire you as well. Comments are always welcomed! Be sure to check my re-opened ETSY store ...

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