April 01, 2005

Commentary:

Chula Vista traffic problems could use a little of Disney foresight

By Bill Richter

Walt Disney dreamed that we would some day use versions of his “People movers” rather than cars. While these pod-like vehicles are not foreseeable in the near future, similar low-tech concepts are within reach. Some of these concepts have been put to practice with success in other cities such as Ottawa, Ontario, Brisbane, Australia and even a pilot project in Los Angeles. They have names such as “surface metro” and “bus rapid transit.” They use custom buses running outside of traffic in their own separate rights-of-way - just like the trolley - and because they make fewer stops with no traffic delays, they tend to be faster service. Unlike our traditional bus system, some of these buses look futuristic and most of them focus on the riding experience. More importantly, these systems can move more people faster and cheaper than can a traditional trolley / rail system.

Our current system of buses and trolleys have a long list of drawbacks that prevent the majority of people from using them. As the news showed a few weeks ago, there has been a steady decline in ridership in the last four years that doesn’t even address the fact that most of us will not take those methods of transportation unless we have little choice. We need to look at new ways of thinking about getting people from point A to point B. The SANDAG Board, to its credit, has talked about implementing some of these improvements, but their actual planning always seems to fall far short of what other cities have been able to come up with.

Now is the time to think of new ideas to deal with traffic in Chula Vista. The proposed General Plan calls for an additional 90,000 new residents on our roads and its impact report forewarns of serious traffic delays and even gridlock in certain areas that will result from the additional housing. As any person who works outside of Chula Vista can tell you, the daily commute keeps getting longer every year. Already, intersections throughout the city are being spray-painted “keep clear” – a sure symptom of gridlock. In short, if we add 90,000 new people without changing our transportation system, we will see traffic in Chula Vista that will make people think that Los Angeles is not a bad place to live.

In light of so many new residents, we need to make a serious commitment to create a new viable city-wide mass transit master plan for Chula Vista that is not based on outdated bus and trolley systems. This City Council has shown that it can think “out of the box” in dealing with other critical issues. To follow in the steps of visionaries like Walt Disney would keep them in good company.

Bill Richter is a resident of Chula Vista.

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