Traffic survey: Are you a NIMFY?

Some of my fellow Westsiders complain about traffic the way some downtowners complain about vagrancy. They cast it as a nuisance, a threat to safety, and a health hazard.

Though vagrancy and traffic are two very different issues, the solution to both problems is one in the same for some property owners. Their answer is something like: Not in my front yard, away from my stoop, and off my street. Of course, this is the outcome they desire, a detour at best, but not a solution. Nonetheless, it appears to have worked its way into the latest Los Angleles Department of Transportation effort to determine the wishes of Westsiders whose streets are adjacent to Santa Monica Blvd.

LADOT, working with homeowner associations, has posted signs at the intersections of Westside residential streets, such the one pictured on Veteran Avenue, complete with handouts (PDF LINK), to solicit participation in a traffic survey between now and April 15, 2007. The goal is to implement a "Neighborhood Traffic Management" plan.

The survey asks the usual better-same-worse question about traffic, and then drops this bombshell:

"Would you be in favor of traffic restrictions that may delay traffic LEAVING the neighborhood (to discourage cut-through traffic), even if it may result in some delay for you in leaving home and possible diversion of traffic to other neighborhood streets? (Examples of restrictions: turn restriction signs, delayed traffic signal timing, half-street closures, etc.)"

Another question poses the same scenario for traffic "entering" the neighborhood.

What's next? A perimeter fence and border checkpoints?

I'm not sure how it works in other parts of LA, but on the Westside it seems the city has already done more to appease homeowners than it has to untangle traffic snarls.

The LAPD appears to be doing all it can. Officers can be seen writing traffic tickets daily on Westside streets, and usually in an area of focus that has been noticed in the West Traffic Newsletter. There's even a Most Wanted List of suspected Westside traffic offenders, those involved in the most serious of incidents.

In addition to enforcement, the city has posted several dubious signs that declare "no through traffic" on Westside streets, despite the fact that those streets do connect thoroughfares as intended when designed. The city has blocked access to two-way streets from thoroughfares by restricting turns and by sinking do-not-enter signs at their terminus. As you might expect, the city has installed many traffic humps and created four-way stops, all in response to complaints about traffic. But perhaps the most significant action of all was the recent reconfiguration of Santa Monica Boulevard, which all but channelized traffic from Century City to the 405 by reducing the number of access points to residential streets.

Where are we going with this?

How long can the city continue to remove more and more residential streets (relief routes) from thoroughfares? Doesn't the absense of relief exacerbate the clogging of intersections? Nevermind that shortcuts have long been a part of Los Angeles culture, with blog posts dedicated to Favorite Traffic Shortcuts, not to mention Steve Martin's tribute to the LA commute in LA STORY.

The reality is that traffic isn't being addressed, it's just being moved "to other neighborhood streets," as stated in the LADOT's own survey question.

Will we one day see homeowners on one street sue to stop traffic diversion from another? Will drivers rise up in a class action lawsuit to maintain access to residential streets their tax dollars help to pave? Prescriptive easement rights have prevented plenty of property owners from blocking public access to well-worn paths on their land, so doesn't that also prevent the city from blocking access to taxpayer-funded streets by simply dropping a signpost in the ground?

Several Westside homeowner groups have formed on a street-by-street basis in the past few years. Overland Avenue, which is the most direct connection on the Westside between Santa Monica Boulevard and the 10, is often dotted with signs that proclaim "Save Little Overland," an expression of opposition to any effort to widen the street.

I haven't studied any idea enough to declare it good, or bad, but it doesn't take an engineering degree to realize that the city will eventually have to make some homeowners unhappy, unless, of course, that whole Segway thing catches on as expected.

It sounds Pollyanna to say that "we're all in this together," but is that because we've quietly decided that we're all in this for ourselves?

And if that's the case, and we do build a wall around the Westside, I just want to know if the people on the outside intend to take responsibility for the grafitti on their side of the wall, because I just don't think my tax dollars should have to pay for something I don't have to look at.

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