“Uber car in autonomous mode kills first pedestrian.” Days later details of the crash in Tempe, Ariz., emerge. What wasn’t initially mentioned was the accident occurred at 10 p.m. when 49-year-old Elaine Herzberg, wearing dark clothing, was pushing her bicycle with no lights across a high-speed highway. Details matter.
Back in Laguna, Agenda Bill 14 reads “Coast Highway intersection improvements feasibility study”. Yet another consultant was retained to gather the traffic numbers and scramble them in a software model, we are told to improve traffic, pedestrian flow and reduce delays. Their winning recommendations propose removing the crosswalk at Ocean and adding pedestrian scrambles at Forest Avenue and Laguna Avenue. Makes you wanna join the LB City Cheerleaders!
A crosswalk at Broadway will be left unchanged, something about scramble coupling with Forest Avenue and apparently too much of a good thing. The software model shows adding scrambles to intersections causes car traffic delays, so to compensate the consultants add car turn-pockets at Legion and Broadway and remove parking and a pedestrian ramp at Main Beach.
Software modeling is used to convince decision makers of accurate predictions. Our consultant uses plenty of it, SimTraffic, HCM and Synchro circa 1960 among them. A detailed look at the software shows what the color glossy does not. The consultant measures success with terms like capacity ratio, queuing penalty and parking occupancy – all are measures of counting cars, not pedestrians, bicycles, buses, planes, trolleys, not even bullet trains. It’s cars. The consultant design does not conform to Caltran’s own mandates for Complete Streets Policy.
Residents and decision makers should remember the fundamental axiom of software model predictions: if garbage-in then garbage-out. Relying on predictions from the correct software model will reduce traffic, the wrong fundamentals will ensure Laguna’s car gridlock.
Les Miklosy, Laguna Beach