Friday, October 2, 2009

Congestion Awareness


I just joined this blog site to speak about traffic congestion and transportation issues. As a retired planner from
Caltrans and having worked with many agencies and local communities, it is distressing that congestion is still
one of major, unsolved problems in urban planning. There are many reasons for congestion, such as inadequate transit services, personal preferences to drive, urban sprawl and poor planning in where we locate homes and work sites. I don't think there is a single solution.

However, energy consumption and climate change have to be a part of the dialogue. More investments in public transit must also be in the mix. Adopting technology from the internet and wireless devices might also be used. And we should include more community involvement in our planning processes, particularly from those underserved communities who often bear the burden of noise, pollution and hazards from this congestion. I would be interested in hearing what others think about this broad topic. Thank you.


Spencer said...

Welcome to the club Norman!

Here's an idea for adopting more technology or rather, implementing what we already have in a new way.

While I was in Japan, I noticed something truly fantastic which is that at their major intersections, they have large LED signs showing the traffic of the upcoming stretch of the street they are on as well as the next few major streets that run parallel and perpendicular.

This allows people to reroute based on poor traffic flow based on congestion, accidents, closures etc in real time.

We already have SigAlert for the freeways as well the LA City website for streets (albeit extremely archaic and needing a user friendly upgrade) displaying current traffic conditions.

All that would be needed is to put up these LEDs with both sets of information as it will allow people to better plan their route in ways that go beyond the former examples I mentioned but also see if maybe the streets are moving more quickly than the freeway.


Spencer said...

Here is a picture example on one of the main streets.

alexq316 said...

I like the point you made regarding this:
"And we should include more community involvement in our planning processes, particularly from those underserved communities who often bear the burden of noise, pollution and hazards from this congestion. "
I totally agree with this, in fact, I am doing my class report on this. Would you happen to have concrete facts or evidence to back this statement up? How exactly do under-served communities bear the brunt of noise, pollution and other hazards?

Alan Huynh said...


look at USC. If your a resident of the area not a student but a resident do you think the residents around this area is getting shafted?

You have no parking, loud parties, high rent, and little to no voice against the USC monster.

Because SC brings in so many artificial residents it displaces the needs and demands of the real residents.

mkodama said...

Norm - thanks for posting on the blog site!

Norman Dong said...

I believe that the Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) is supposed to cover areas of electronic signage to help notify drivers and transit users of upcoming traffic patterns. However, it's a matter of getting consensus among regional and local agencies on common technology, format, etc. Consensus is always the hardest thing to achieve in transportation planning because it involves so many interest groups and opinions.

As for another comment on impacts on under-served communities, there are plenty of websites and health studies that show the ill effects of heavy traffic, diesel fumes, noise and congestion on inner city and low-income communities. They have the highest asthma rates, more prone to pedestrian injuries and fatalities, and a greater incidence of hypertension due to the continued exposure to high noise levels. Just the community members who live near the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach or LAX International. Many of these transportation and freight systems were put into place long before community involvement was really important. Even when communities were supposedly involved, they were basically shown the plan and asked to bless it. Far cry from today's requirements where community input is essential to making a context-sensitive solution that mitigates impacts and provides the affected communities some workable solutions. It just takes patience and will on the part of planning agencies to bring diverse communities into the picture. It's especially not easy when you consider they have been ignored or marginalized for so long and have lost trust in the planning process.

Norman Dong said...

There has been recent news that Americans are weakening in their belief about climate change. That is unfortunate, because climate change will affect our society in so many ways, from extreme weather patterns, crop failures, droughts, rising sea levels that affect our coasts, and even the possibility of more disease outbreaks. It affects us all in so many ways. But the endless discussions about the economy, health care reform and the war in Afghanistan have trumped an otherwise important issue that confronts us. Transportation, energy production and usage, and manufacturing all play a part in climate change. Those of us involved in transportation planning have a very large role in influencing policy and consumer behavior that will affect our climate. It is very important to keep our environment in the forefront of our thinking whenever we plan or modify a part of the transportation system. Air quality and climate have long-term consequences on our health and standard of living. Promoting cleaner and more fuel efficient vehicles and funding more public transit systems are just part of the effort. Planners must also implement public education through community meetings and connect with our school systems so that the green concepts of planning are integrated into school programs. Special efforts must also be made to reach the under-served and immigrant communities who face cultural and linguistic barriers to understanding the planning process. Effective planning that reminds people about climate change and how our actions affect it call on us to be active in so many areas.