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Monday, Jul 22, 2024

Drivers Too Comfy to Fight Traffic

The more I read the history of our forebears who scratched a living from barren ground, fought marauders and wild animals , and each other , the more I wonder what happened to their ilk.

If our ancestors had to sit in the kind of traffic jams that some in this great state endure each morning, they would have dragged the politicians into the streets, accompanied with appropriate tar and feathers. Aside from the level of frustration that drivers on San Diego County freeways have when they finally get to work , a frustration they endure day after day as good sheep , imagine the billions of dollars sucked out of the economy by inefficient transportation. The waste of high-priced gasoline alone would justify the rapid expansion of freeways to stop the traffic jams.

Despite the efforts of those same politicians to change the driving habits of California drivers, the precious mass transit the politicians provide as an alternative continues to be populated with empty seats. Not only are the freeway drivers wasting time and getting frustrated, they are further insulted by having their tax money spent on mass transit they do not use and do not want.

It is a staple of columnists with writer’s block to interview managers of mass transit systems, who, predictably, do not themselves ride the alternatives they propose for everyone else. It is understandable for planners to wish to plan, and what better than planning for mass transit , although they will not themselves use it.

What better? How about more freeways! How about abandoning the underused commuter lanes and thereby actually reducing overall congestion? How about double-decking San Diego’s freeways? We are less vulnerable to earthquakes than any other part of the state.

If there is anything less sensible than cars perfectly capable of 80 mph sitting in 10 mph traffic, I can’t imagine it. Where there are known bottlenecks, and all of the bottlenecks are known, why is little done to fix the problem?

The answer, I fear, is social engineering. Big Brother thinks we should all take the bus, and if we will not voluntarily take their advice, they will make us so miserable that we will do what’s best for us.

Clue to planners: Southern California does not have vertical populations that can easily use mass transit; we have horizontal populations that like the freedom of their automobiles!

I can understand how the planners have usurped the power to make decisions , those poor souls stuck in morning and evening traffic, day after day after day, have become sheep. They believe that individually and collectively they are at the mercy of nameless, faceless planners who are supported by batteries of bureaucrats and funded by their own tax money.

There are groups dedicated to every illness, every conceivable wrong, every kind and type of puppy , but it is hard to find an outraged group of activists dedicated to pounding on the podiums of power to demand immediate construction of double-decked freeways if necessary to move traffic.

The unlamented previous governor announced several years ago that the last freeway had been built in California, and only a massive political uprising can turn this policy around.

Whatever happened to outrage? I fear that the entertainment value of FM music and talk radio, combined with the ease of automatic transmissions and air conditioning, have made us so comfortable in our cars that even traffic jams, day after day, have made us too complacent to complain.

And the bureaucrats count on that.

Allen Polk Hemphill is a freelance writer living in Escondido.


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