29 October 2016

Inland Valley Daily Bulletin's "Best of All Solutions" on Traffic

On Thursday, the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin's editorial board offered its endorsement of incumbents Art Bennett and Cynthia Moran for the upcoming election, recommending readers choose them rather than challengers Paul Molinaro, James Gallagher and Roseanna Mitchell-Arrieta.

This post is not to address the merits of the board's recommendations, but, rather, its interesting statements concerning a major campaign issue raised by the challengers.  Actually, there are two that are intertwined--these being development and traffic.

On the first point, the paper stated that Molinaro, Gallagher and Mitchell-Arrieta were arguing "for pulling up the drawbridge and saying, 'I got to town before you did, so sorry, you can't come in.'"  The board then opined that "youn gamilies—our children—[have] to be able to establish themselves in our cities, not to have to move 'way out' somewhere while Inland Valley cities get grayer and grayer."

This seems to be conflating several separate development issues in one argument.  First, it is true that Molinaro and Mitchell-Arrieta, both practicing attorneys, actually suggested in the sole candidate debate that the city deliberately delay development project process to slow down building.  This is, as Bennett and Moran both quickly replied, extraordinarily problematic from an ethical, if not a legal, standpoint.

However, there is the question of what cities can reasonably do within their discretion to halt development if the effects on the environment are such that the projects do more harm than good.  In Carbon Canyon, for example, the risk of wildfire exposure, as an upcoming post will address, is growing; traffic is becoming a greater problem, and our long-term drought involves water scarcity.  These matters aren't going away and to ignore them is not prudent public policy.

The "I got to town before you did, so sorry, you can't come in" canard is an old one.  I don't know if any of the challengers have said or suggested that, so to toss that one out as if they did is questionable, at best.  Limiting development in sensitive areas is definitely not a matter of keeping people out just because.  It's because of the long-term effects such development has, given changing conditions.  Carbon Canyon, as an example, is not the same place it was ten, twenty, or thirty years ago, but to keep applying the same development philosophy as existed then is something that needs to be questioned and challenged.

As to encouraging "young families—our children—to be able to establish themselves in our cities" rather than in Moreno Valley, Hesperia or Menifee, that's hardly a matter of city policy so much as it is basic market forces.   Unless you've got a very healthy six-figure income and higher, affording to buy in Chino Hills is just not going to be feasible.  How many "young families" can pay market rates for homes is the real question, not whether current residents want them to live in Chino Hills.

The "graying" of our society is another matter, but, again, doesn't seem, to this observer, to be connected to the argument about limiting development in sensitive areas.  This is especially, again, if the effects on the environement, not to mention the long-term net expense of maintaining residential neighborhoods which don't pay for themselves, are serious issues.

Where the editorial board's logic gets really interesting, though, is with traffic matters.  Firstly, the piece actually offers that "when 'Hills' is part of your city's name, it means there are limited routes of egress and ingress—that's what hills do."  First off, from a purely grammatical perspective, hills actually don't do anything, people do.  Secondly, to act as if traffic matters are determined purely by geography and topography is astoundingly illogical.

Why not offer the argument that, if the hills area prohibits ingress and egress then you limit development so that the residences built there are appropriate for the geography and topography?

But, here's another befuddling logical exercise:
too many residents work in Orange County or L.A. County, and there are too few ways to get to and back from those places.  We're not saying some improvements can't be made, but the best of all solutions is for the Inland Empire's economy to mature to the point that more people find good jobs close to home, so that fewer people have to drive south or west to get to work.
The line of reasoning is that a "mature" economy in the Inland Valley will bring jobs there from Orange and Los Angeles counties.  But, how is "mature" defined in that context?  That goes unexplained.  And, then, how would companies be drawn to the "mature" Inland Valley economy exactly?  Finally, how would housing affordability factor into this?  Again, not explained.

Beyond this, though, is the highly troubling lack of consideration for the nature of traffic congestion, which is the badly outmoded concept of the single passenger vehicle and the equally outdated dinosaur (literally, in terms of fossil fuel consumption) of the internal combustion engine.

We had electric and natural gas vehicles in the 1920s and a Model T that got 25 miles to the gallon.  Admittedly, the first two were inefficient, but innovation and increased technological advancement could have brought better quality to them decades ago.  Fuel economy could have been dramatically increased decades ago.  Mass transit options, used in many places because of physical space limitations, have successfully operated, but not in enough places and could have decades ago.

The reason we took the path of wasteful consumption of fossil fuels for cars, trucks and other vehicles is because we could.  No one thought about the long-term supply, much less the environmental effects until relatively recently and, even now, the concern is half-hearted for way too many people.

For the Daily Bulletin to suggest that "the best of all solutions" is to have jobs closer to home leaves out the growing problem of traffic congestion on weekends when most people are not working.  How does this "best of all solutions" deal with that?  Finally, fundamental congestion of too many people in a given area driving themselves around solo too often is not addressed by this "best of all solutions."

This post hasn't even touched rising pollution levels in recent years when we should be radically reducing it; the continuing strength of the climate change deniers; the financial and environmental costs of maintaining an aging and inefficient car-based transportation network; and more.

We cannot continue to add to our regional population of roughly 10 million people, consuming resources at rates far higher than other parts of the world and emitting pollution at rates far higher than other parts of the world, without a dramatic change in how we live.  This includes water use, pollution creation, disposing of waste, processing waste, funding schools and public works, repairing and replacing aging infrastructure.

And, it includes transportation.  The single passenger vehicle model is not only extremely wasteful, it is destructive in the aggregate.  For a nation that sent astronauts to the moon, built the world's greatest educational system, and, yes, built a comprehensive national highway system, coming up with mass transit solutions that address our transportation problems should not be anywhere near impossible.

It wouldn't, certainly, be easy, but we don't really have many choices here.  Mass transit (buses, trains, streetcars, larger group ridesharing) is basically the "best of all solutions," especially if incentivized.  That means stringent "use fees" on people who choose more polluting methods and financially rewarding those who go the route of reducing carbon footprints.

Speaking of carbon, Carbon Canyon Road's traffic volume has increased significantly just in the last several months, following another spike in 2013.   This means more wasted time and more pollution emitted in the canyon and generally.  We need forward-thinking solutions, not ones rooted in old ideas no longer applicable to changing times and circumstances like those advocated by the Daily Bulletin's editorial board.

Fundamentally, it's not a technological problem, it a matter of political, economic and social will.  The Daily Bulletin's antiquated views on traffic and development as related to it are, unfortunately, still very orthodox.  The problem is: we can't afford for those views to be the mainstream, because that philosophy is just not sustainable.

1 comment:

Paul J. Molinaro, M.D., J.D., 2016 Candidate for Chino Hills City Council said...

A post I made on my Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/paul.j.molinaro/posts/1157846687618593) page set forth my position on the drawbridge metaphor... the entire post is long, but here's the applicable part: "Let me be unequivocal. Let me be clear. I want the drawbridge pulled up! And, I am certain most, as in almost all of us except the people on the council, want the same. We can let the drawbridge down as needed to let new residents in… when the time is right, when we are ready, when infrastructure can support it, when it does not cause harm to current residents. Our current council wants the drawbridge down all the time while they entice new residents with a welcome party hosted by developers. We do not owe anything to people who want to move here. What kind of twisted ethics or reasoning is that? Because we are known as affluent, and not all of us are by the way, we must welcome everyone who wants to pack into our city no matter how crowded it gets? We do not have to ruin our city because it is a desirable place to live. Our city is not a lifeboat... it's our home."
- Paul J. Molinaro, M.D., J.D., 2016 Candidate for Chino Hills City Council