Sic transit Gloria
For much of recent history the mantra of traffic management has been “keep ’em moving!” One envisions an endless line of cars and trucks coming from someplace and going to someplace while onlookers stand in bewilderment. “Modern Times,” as social satirist Charlie Chaplin has depicted it, has enveloped us and we seem unable to both understand and cope with the developments.
Thursday evening at Stuart Denenberg’s Fine Art Galley, the West Hollywood West Residents Association gathered with city officials and staff to discuss and consider possible solutions to traffic conditions on San Vicente Boulevard. This strip of “highway” through West Hollywood has been a constant topic of concern for the past 35 years – or as long as we have been a city. The possibilities of a fix for the most noticeable problem, the flow of cars onto Rosewood from San Vicente was the presentation by the city.
Among the 40 or so attendees there were strident voices that redirected the discussion to their individual concerns until a strong suggestion from one in the audience put the meeting back on track. WHWRA will synthesize the city’s ideas into an email blast to members who can them weigh the proposal and decide if they agree or not. If enough agree the proposal will go forward eventually to the City Council for its decision. This is the process – otherwise….?
This writer encountered a small group of people standing on the sidewalk at Ashcroft and San Vicente and joined them as we viewed the daily spectacle of the evening rush of a steady swarm of cars that took to the side streets to avoid such main drags as Beverly Boulevard and Melrose Avenue. It was not a pretty sight, and I was hoping that Mr. Delgado and Mr. Demitri, from our city staff, were taking notes. Councilmember Lauren Meister has seen it all too often, as she is a resident nearby. Horns blaring when the backed-up line of cars is not moving, U-turns in all the wrong places and bad behavior not in short supply. If either city official would like a closer view of such activity, they might like to join me in my driveway, perhaps with a nice wine to sip, and further observe humans attempting to force their wills upon inanimate objects. A few others going to the meeting joined us and we ventured into the street en masse — safety in numbers, you know.
Vociferous complaints and back-and-forths consumed much of the 90 minutes planned for the meeting. Although much was touched upon, I had some questions that had to be tabled. Among them was what sort of consultation does our city have with Beverly Hills or Los Angeles? All streets are not merely lines on a map, and the action and activities of a city at one end has certain impacts on a city in the middle and a city at the other end.
Administrative districts are what we call cities, and each is often reluctant to involve another in its problems and solutions. What interaction is there between us and our neighbors? My work in the past had taken me to many places beyond the familiar, and observing how others have handled their own situations has been part of my continuing education. For instance, in both St, Louis, Mo., and San Juan, Puerto Rice, reversible lanes or other lane restrictions take place during the “rush periods” when traffic is heavier by far in one direction than in the other and perhaps one or more of the west-bound lanes isused for east-bound traffic during the hours of greater stress.
Signal lights and lighted overhead signs alert and direct drivers. Roundabouts are one of the most popular devices employed throughout the world to direct and contain traffic. Even in our crowded enclave they could find more use. Are synchronized traffic signals arranged on our busiest streets?
“All-way” pedestrian crossings (closest one is in Westwood, at the UCLA main gate.) might be of great value even on smaller intersections such as Robertson and Melrose. (By the way, the pavement there is so bad that pedestrians often stumble into cracks and fissures when crossing.) One-way streets and cul de sacs have all been voted down in the past by residents who felt that they could not live with such constraints. But you cannot have it both ways, and residents will have to be more open to compromise in order to achieve some sanity and return to enjoying their living places.
All said, I suggest that the new mantra for traffic management be “diverge- – re-direct! send ‘em someplace else.” Major streets for major traffic.