Have you ever sat motionless in Laguna traffic wondering where the guy in front of you is from? You might have thought if he wasn’t driving a car Laguna’s streets would be a little less crowded, or you thought “he’s one of those 4 million summer visitors.” Well here’s a surprise, LBPD data show the guy in front of you is 94% likely to be from California, 43% likely from our closest five neighboring cities, and 26% likely to be a Laguna resident. So don’t blame traffic on visiting Oklahoma drivers, the problem is us.
Naturally most people get around Laguna by driving because the alternatives to driving are oh so “inconvenient”. Let me deliver the final clue now, ever consider yourself as part of the problem? If your answer feels like a confession that’s good, press on.
So how did we arrive today with a transportation system that shows it’s inadequacies despite years and years of refinements, paid consultants, re-designs, and millions spent? Since the 1950’s Laguna Beach like so many other cities around the nation has experienced an erosion of city infrastructure caused by the automobile. Erosion begins with little bites first: bigger intersections, road widening, straightened roads, faster speeds, greater L-O-S (an engineering term but I call Level of Suffering). Then come bites in desperation: the by-pass road, the toll road, the mega-transfer lot and the $martcard underground parking garage (made in Germany).
Building automobile infrastructure is in direct opposition to simple transit infrastructure, bus lanes, crosswalks, bike-paths, and pedestrian sidewalks. The preponderance for automobiles causes a feed-back effect, the more space provided cars in towns, the greater becomes the need for cars. Still more space is allocated for them, both when they are moving and when they are idle. Laguna is not immune from automobile erosion. Look at a Google-Map of the Art Festival grounds and you will be astonished to see 80% of the livable space is paved over for parking spaces and Laguna Canyon Road. The Festival buildings are packed into the remaining 20%.
Irvine development is planning 5000 more homes near the Great Mall. Guess what those folks drive to the beach? Private automobiles no longer serve a single mobility solution for Laguna, we need a new attrition plan for the private automobile and working alternatives. If you recognize that further automobile erosion is unworkable in Laguna Beach, you are ready to complete the streets.
Les Miklosy, chair, Task Force for Complete Streets