Quote of the Day

The Connection Between the Costa Mesa Freeway and I-73

From an article in Today’s LA Times on the chronic congestion problems on the Costa Mesa Freeway in Orange County, an Orange County mayor comes so close to figuring out the problem with trying to widen your way out of congestion:

Tustin Mayor Jerry Amante said the traffic on the 55, which cuts through the western part of his city, "is one of the worst bottlenecks in the county."

"We’ve widened and widened and widened . . . over and over again," he said. "It has given us the most capacity we can get, and really, now we’re just tinkering with the margins."

All those road widening projects and still congestion persists.  But don’t worry people of the OC, the Times reports that CALTRANS has the answer:

The state is planning to build three auxiliary lanes in the bottleneck area — a project scheduled to run from 2010 to 2014…

Can someone remind me, what’s the definition of insanity again?


  • i’ve heard a stat before, though i can’t quote a source – it said that within any new road construction would reach capacity within five years.

  • I read this in a paper put together by Gordon Price, “Widening roads to ease traffic congestion is like trying to cure obesity by loosening your belt.”

    The “Bottlenecks Blog” has a solution to every “congestion problem” in the city. Just read the title of the blog: it’s because these damn roads aren’t wide enough!

    This “traffic is like water” fallacy is an incredibly strong one, and is rooted not just in our psyches, but in our roadway measurments and funding policies.

    Right now, roadway performance is measured in terms of the number, and speed, of private automobiles on our roads.

  • But ubray, Bruce Lee said we should be like water. Are you saying cars and trucks should not be like water?

    Sometimes I think activism is like therapy. You have to spend an immense amount of time talking with people so that they can work out the problems themselves. If someone sat down with this mayor and just talked to him everyday about these problems, letting him lead and run the discussion, do you think he’d see it?

  • We learn about water in our childhood. We know that if you dam up a stream, the water behind it backs up and spreads around the dam. The amount of water does not decrease, it just builds up and floods everything behind the dam.

    The language and measurements used to describe and study the streets is based on the idea that “traffic” is a fluid-like substance: it flows, it gets backed up, and it will pool and collect in areas that prevent it from flowing.

    The fallacy here is that traffic IS NOT water. If you close a roadway in a city like Los Angeles, the same volume of traffic that used to flow on that roadway does not appear at the closed roadway the every consecutive morning after the closing. The traffic that used to use that roadway does not flow around the closed roadway. Traffic is not water so something unexpected happens when you close a roadway to cars: the total number of cars using all roadways is reduced.

    It works this way with pedestrians and cyclists. If you eliminate sidewalks, and speed up cars, people do not make trips by walking or bicycling. It is not like, the month after a sidewalk is closed, people that used to use it just keep showing up in large numbers and collecting at the old site of the sidewalk. They don’t flow around the old sidewalk site into smaller streets. They simply stop using the sidewalk to get around.

    Somehow, this principle does not extend to car traffic. I have heard, countless times in community hearings, about how a stop sign or traffic signal will force the flow of traffic into adjacent neighborhoods. I have heard how a closed street will push all traffic into surrounding neighborhoods.

    These beliefs are based on a falsehood. Traffic is not like water.

  • ubrayj –

    Sarcasm. I has it.

  • Kirk: Damn it, Scotty! I need more lanes!

    Scotty: We’re givin’er all she’s got.

    Kirk: I don’t care if you have to pave every inch of the LA Basin. I’ve got to have more lanes!

    Scotty: Aye Cap’n.


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