Connecting the Harbor to LA


Road Diets, Stop Signs, Traffic Solutions

By James Preston Allen, publisher

Councilman Joe Buscaino held a town hall forum on the Pacific Avenue Road Diet last week and got an ear-full from some unhappy residents about narrowing the roadway. The problem is that the Los Angeles Department of Transportation has already decided, for some very rational reasons, that this is the solution and has already budgeted the money to slow traffic on this roadway. The one small truth revealed by the DOT representatives at the meeting  is that the ATSAC traffic signal synchronization system that the city paid millions for hasn’t been working and there’s no estimate of when it will be fixed. So much for great plans and hi-tech solutions.

The problem that the city is solving here is kind of like Councilman Buscaino’s predecessor Janice Hahn’s approach to traffic accidents, more stop signs and traffic signals. When taken individually, these incremental steps are reasonable solutions, until they are implemented with an overall plan.

What is needed is a region-wide traffic and transportation plan that takes into consideration port cargo traffic, the impact of increasing commuter traffic on streets like Gaffey street and Pacific Coast Highway (both of which feeds into the 110 freeway) and the projected impacts of waterfront development from tourists visiting the harbor.

Anyone who drives our designated Great Gaffey Street to work notices the weekday migration of workers, calculated by LADOT at some 63,000 car trips per day! Many of these (a good chunk of which live on the hill of Rancho Palos Verdes) are commuters–commuters  because of the dwindling job base locally.

Our readers commute an average of 15.3 miles daily and if the area population were to grow, so would the rush hour traffic. The problem however is not so much the number of cars and trucks, but the amount of time it takes to get anywhere in the Los Angeles basin. Distance for Angelenos is not calculated in miles but by time. We’ve all noticed how much more time it takes to get anywhere outside of our own neighborhood hamlets. Slowing traffic down only lengthens the distance between ourselves and our destination.

The other part of this equation that the LADOT doesn’t calculate is the distance between citizens and their city government measured in time.  When civic leaders complain about “the people” not turning out to vote, not showing up at city hall or otherwise being unengaged, they are fundamentally overlooking the sheer hassle factor of getting anywhere in Los Angeles be engaged in the governing of our city.

Before the advent of our “modern” freeway system, inspired by Disney’s 1955, Autopia, there were hundreds of miles of Red Car lines that stretched from San Pedro’s Point Fermin to Pasadena in the north, and crisscrossed the southland from the beaches to Riverside.

A century ago, it took just as long to ride the Red Car to downtown L.A. as it does to drive there today in traffic. That’s some great advancement for a nation and a region that put a man on the moon within a decade! You’d think someone would have a better idea?

Reconnecting Los Angeles to itself via a modern version of the Red Car  is that better idea. The harbor region needs it now more than ever before.  With the increased port traffic, the projected traffic impact of waterfront development, there is no better time than now to commit the city and county of Los Angeles to connecting the  Los Angeles and Long Beach harbor areas to the L.A. Airport and the San Pedro Cruise terminal through existing rail right-of-ways.

By my very unscientific estimate, this could eliminate some 150,000 to 200,000 car trips per year off our 110 and 405 freeways. This could increase access to better jobs for thousands of workers and reduce greatly the cost of commuting to both work and the seats of government. Can you imagine parking near the waterfront and it only taking 35 or 40 minutes to get from there to LAX or downtown Los Angeles and not having to pay for parking?

Some might call this a pipe dream and others pure insanity to think driving Angelenos would give up their keys to take public transit. But I suspect many would change their mind when travel times to regular destinations begin to double or even triple. The thing is the City of Los Angeles has already done the studies that show how it can be done. Visit links below. It’s not like we don’t have a solution. What we don’t have is the political will-power to influence our electeds to move in this direction. Many of us are too busy complaining about the road diet or a useless change on a right-hand turn signal and bicycle lanes.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ll probably drive my two classic cars until I’m too old to drive anymore. But would I choose to take a light rail line to Los Angeles to go to city hall or catch a flight at the airport. You bet I would and this should be the option for anyone who lives south of the 405 freeway.

It’s time to re-connect L.A. to its harbor region before the 110 freeway becomes an impediment to transportation!




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