Monday, October 10, 2005

Cole v. Cote Round 1

Sept 24, 05 LATimes OpEd with my comments interspersed:

No love for tunnels
By Rick Cole

September 24, 2005
> DECADES AGO, a gadfly candidate for Los Angeles mayor promoted a quick fix
> for smog: Drill tunnels through the San Gabriel Mountains and use giant fans
> to blow the dirty air out the other side. Amazingly, a similar scheme is
> currently getting serious consideration and not from crackpots. This time,
> three massive freeway tunneling projects are being studied by regional
> transportation leaders. Two are funded by the pork-laden federal
> transportation bill recently signed by President Bush.

For someone so very concerned about "pork" Mr. Cole seems remarkably
one-sided in his criticism. His complaints about certain highways
projects no matter how justified pale in comparison to the pork doled
out to transit projects in the very same legislation. It must be
understood that the entirety of Mr. Cole's position is easily
summarized; "Cars are icky." What sounds below like a reasoned
discussion of transportation issues facing Southern California is in
fact nothing more than the unreasoned appeal to emotion we've come to
expect from the so called Smart Growth, transit cabal of would be social

> Each of the tunnel options purports to fill gaps in the region's freeway
> network. The city of Palmdale is pushing a highway hole through the San
> Gabriels to Glendale. An aide to L.A. County Supervisor Mike Antonovich calls
> it "a sorely needed link that will provide incredible pollution relief and
> traffic mitigation." The head of the Los Angeles County Metropolitan
> Transportation Authority is pitching a tunnel to solve the 50-year stalemate
> over plowing the Long Beach Freeway through South Pasadena.

The blocked completion of the Long Beach Freeway is indeed approaching
50 years. What is truly amazing is the level of hypocrisy necessary for
the opponents to continue this fight. Which side of the fight should
the environmentalists be on? The one that saves 7000 gallons of
gasoline and 4.8 tons of pollutants? You'd be wrong. The freeway
completion would have been doing this every DAY from opening day if
allowed to be finished.

> And at least six Orange County cities back a tunnel under the Cleveland
> National Forest to ease commuter trips to cheaper housing in Riverside
> County.
> The fallacy of these boondoggles isn't that the stupendous environmental,
> engineering and financial obstacles will doom them. The problem is that they
> are colossally bad ideas.

"Colossally bad" in Mr. Cole's opinion. And poorly reasoned opinion it
is. The -reason- for such extreme projects is -precisely- because of
severe environmental and fiscal restraints imposed on our highways. A
freeway through the Cleveland Forest instead of a tunnel would be
cheaper but interfere with one of the few remaining large open spaces in
the region. The poor planning practices being advocated by Mr. Cole
being the reason there are so few such place left. It wasn't "sprawl"
that generated tight neighborhoods, inadequate highways and cities
without greenbelts. Mr. Cole needs to be reminded that planners all
over Ventura County objected to the SOAR ordinances that passed so
overwhelmingly 10 years ago.

> Let's pretend for a moment that the federal pork fairy were to grant the
> fervent wishes of the tunnel boosters. What would we gain? Go back as far as
> the yellowed newspaper clippings of the 1920s and the answer is always the
> same: congestion relief. The scale and costs of projects grow ever more
> Pharaonic, yet harried motorists continue to be gridlocked by empty promises.

Empty promises indeed. LA has half the freeway network originally laid
out and has half as many freeway miles as most US metropolitan areas.
Small wonder there's the most congestion, we have the fewest roads.
Apparently simple math is beyond the emotional appeals of the social

> You'd think Southern Californians would finally wise up. Remember when the
> interchange of the 5 and the 405 in Orange County was widened to 26 lanes?
> Even that record-breaking "gridlock buster" is clogging up. A landmark study
> by UC Berkeley, based on 18 years of data for 14 California metro areas,
> concluded that added trips quickly engulf "improved" roadways, reproducing
> the original congestion. The research showed that every 10% increase in
> capacity spurred an average 9% increase in traffic within four years.

Mr. Cole needs a new reference. The "study" he refers to is the
infamous Mark Hansen and Yuanlin Huang, "Road Supply
and Traffic in California Urban Areas," Transportation
Research A, Vol. 31, No. 3, 1997, pp. 205-218

What the data show but the conclusions ignore is that
adding roads capacity to areas of large unmet demand has a
-negative- effect on induced demand. This may seem, to the
dilettante especially or in the case of Mr. Cole willfully
unreceptive, to be counterintuitive but makes perfect sense
after careful analysis. In places with large unmet demand
and concurrent congestion (like Southern California) people
start behaving sub-optimally for transportation efficiency.
With adequate roads capacity these people are able to
return to best practices.

> The
> moment the ribbon is cut on new mega-projects, sprawl and "induced demand"
> start filling them up. New suburban rooftops spawn shopping centers, schools,
> businesses and infrastructure, fueling even more outward population
> dispersion. That's how we grew into a region of 18 million people spread
> across six counties.

Mr. Cole fails to note that the Los Angeles megaopolis is also the
-densest- urban area in the US. The ills he so willingly blames on
"sprawl" are in fact the obvious, negative and predictable consequences
of size and density.

> There's one catch, however. In the past, sprawl just undermined our
> environment and quality of life.

Again Mr. Cole falls back on tired old catch phrases. Problem is no
actual data support the claim of undermined environment and declining
quality of life in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary.
This particular assertion is well known in the transportation and land
use community as being associated with would be social manipulators
(benevolent and for our own good of course) of Mr. Cole's ilk.

> In the new era of pricey oil, it threatens
> our region's survival.

Contrary to the myths promulgated by the New Urbanist Transit
Supporters, Southern California is very typical of most urban areas in
the US with respect to energy consumption. Contrary to the myths
promulgated by the End of Oil alarmists the cost of energy is neither at
all time highs nor particularly expensive relative to either the
national economy or family income. These types of alarmist
prognistigations are nothing more than a lame attempt to incite panic
and foster demand that "somebody do something." Invariably that
somebody is a Smart Growth, New Urbanist, Chicken Little Oil
Depletionist and the something is govenrment intervention and even
prohibition of the transportation and land use preferences of the

> Experts dispute how high and how quickly gas prices
> will rise. But no one questions that they will increase.

For the record these kinds of preemptively prohibiting discussion of
open issues are typical of the Global Warming crowd and other agenda
driven advocacy positions. There are most certainly wide differences of
opinion as to the price of gas in both the near and long terms. No
expert is worthy of the title if they have stopped questioning whether
energy prices will rise.

> U.S. oil production
> peaked in 1986, making us steadily more dependent on foreign crude.

Mr. Cole's fact file is in sore need of correction. US oil production
peaked in 1970. This level of rigor is typical of those seeking to
inflame in order to advance a secondary agenda.

> Most
> industry analysts predict that the global production peak is just ahead or
> may already be in our rearview mirrors.

Mr. Cole uses careful words to avoid the ridicule so deserving of the
concept unnamed but described above. Its called "Peak Oil" and has been
predicted to be just ahead or already in our rearview mirrors for more
than 30 years. The problem with these kinds of predictions is that
eventually they will be correct and the proponents will think they are
visionaries. When other religious views of future apocolypse exhort
people to repent and change we label them crackpots, zealots, charlatans
and cultists. The problem with peak oil is that it happened 40 years
ago and they missed it. The Chicken Little Oil Depletionists failed to
understand that's when we "ran out" of $8 oil. Today it looks as if we
have run out of $30 oil but somehow have all the $60 oil the worlds
needs. With current technology we will never see $100 oil because so
many alternatives become viable before prices rise that much.

> Demand is soaring. Our appetite for
> Hummers may fade, but China is projected to overtake the U.S. in guzzling oil
> within a decade.
> The Southern California Assn. of Governments calls for $115 billion in
> transportation spending between now and 2030. Three-quarters will go just to
> maintain what's already built the rest for projects already approved.

Unmentioned in that total is where the money comes from and where it is
spent. There's also a little bit of loose talk when it comes to calling
things like transit subsidies "maintaining" what's built. Far from it.
The LAMTA, for instance, spends less than 12% of its budget on roads and
more than 80% on transit which carries less than 2.5% of all trips. It
is wholly dishonest to call those distorted spending priorities

> To
> cover those staggering bills, it projects barely $120 billion flowing from
> already strapped local, state and federal sources. With a population expected
> to grow by 5 million over that time, it's obvious that every spare nickel
> should go to projects that reduce our dependence on cars, not to goofy ideas
> that will deepen it.

What's obvious is that the leopard has finally shown his spots. We are
not a car dependent society and Southern California is no more car using
than the rest of the nation. Mr. Cole wants us to abandon what has
proven to work in favor of more of what has proven to fail. He calls
adding roads capacity in the most underserved roads area of the country
"goofy." He has to use words like that because he has no science to
back it up. Instead the Transit Oriented Development Lovers would have
you believe that by acting like Los Angeles and spending on a
vanishingly small portion of a fraction of all travel we can avoid being
like Los Angeles. How "goofy" is that?

> Southern California needs to grow up not out.

Los Angeles is the densest and most congested urban area in the nation.
This is not coincidence. The Smart Growth agenda is not rational, it
tries emotions and misrepresentation to do exactly the opposite of what
has proven to work not because of some altruistic desire to improve
quality of life but because of a deep seated hatred of modern urban form
and a frustrated desire to direct.

> Some critics question whether
> L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa (in his new role as head of the MTA board)
> can fulfill his vision of completing the region's rail network. Yet his goal
> represents a far more attractive future than the tunnel vision behind more
> suburban sprawl. Our best bet is to link transit investment to smarter land
> use, not indulge in profligate pipe dreams.

There's a phrase that needs to be stricken from the language; "transit
investment." Transit is NOT an investment. Transit does not even come
close to covering operating costs and never actually costs less than
EVERY other alternative ever studied. The $7.5 million Ventura County
spent on the Montalvo Metrolink station alone would have paid for the
road improvements to CSUCI that we so desperately need but like I said
the would be social engineers are planning for us to be like Los Angeles
in every respect. That's why we pay more than the cost of a luxury
automobile for every passenger using Metrolink at Montalvo so that these
same people can have their $70,000 jobs remain in downtown LA.

> RICK COLE is a former mayor of Pasadena and now the city manager of Ventura.
> His views are his own.

If anyone believes Mr. Cole's views are not influencing the planning and
development of San Buenventura I've got a tunnel I want to sell you.
Actually Mr. Cole and his staff are the one's selling a tunnel. Ann
Diagle has stated that she wishes she could bury the 101 Freeway and
cover it over with transit oriented development. Good thing these are
the people protecting us from and speaking out against goofy ideas.

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