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San Fernando
Wednesday, Dec 7, 2022
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Traffic Is Not Like the Weather

Here’s a news flash: The San Fernando Valley has the most congested freeway in the country. Well, OK, you already knew that. So maybe it’s lame as news flashes go. When the Auto Insurance Center reported recently that it takes 91 minutes on a weekday morning to drive the 101 Freeway from Topanga Canyon Boulevard to downtown Los Angeles, you probably shrugged. Oh, and the trip back home on the same freeway in the afternoon rush hour is – you guessed it – the second-worst commute in the country. (The story about this is on page 4 of this issue.) But that’s no big news either; you probably knew that, too. You know that traffic here is bad; bad on an epic scale. But people seem to regard it like the weather. Everyone complains but no one can do anything about it. That’s amazing to me. Why? Because traffic congestion is not like the weather. Congestion is a problem not because it can’t be solved but because political leaders refuse to solve it. And they refuse to solve it because average citizens and businesspeople here don’t force them to solve it. If L.A.-like traffic congestion suddenly popped up in nearly any other city in this country, citizens of that city would demand that the problem be solved. Or at least made tolerable. Here, no such demands are lobbied. To be fair, we do have improvements thanks to the Measure R sales tax. And Measure R’s rail-intensive projects are fine and helpful as far as they go, but light rail is slow to come on line, expensive to build and limited in scope and effect. We need more. A lot more. Solutions aren’t hard to figure out. More one-way streets would be a help as would synchronized traffic lights. And yes, the construction of surface-street thoroughfares would be a huge help. Lots of people resist more streets, but in reality, a little selective road construction would be the fastest and cheapest way to make a dent in traffic congestion. And it’s overdue. There’s been little done in years to add lane miles, aside from the 405 Freeway widening and few scattered projects. Los Angeles, by the way, has relatively few lane miles per capita. If you operate a business here, you know how traffic affects you. Deliveries are time consuming and costly. Employees want to do time-shifting or work from home. Those beneficial face-to-face meetings are not as common here as they should be. As the story in this issue noted, the typical driver here spends nearly twice as much time stuck in traffic as the national average. People should be mad as hell and unwilling to take it anymore. If more people and business groups rose up and insisted, again and again, that congestion be improved, then finally, something would happen. And that would be big news. • • • It’s interesting that many business groups are cheering on Proposition 54, which is on the ballot in November. Among them: NFIB California and the Small Business Action Committee along with a host of chambers, such as the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce and the Valley Industry and Commerce Association. (VICA’s president, Stuart Waldman, opines about Proposition 54 in his op-ed on the following page.) It’s interesting, or perhaps ironic, because in most states businesses are painted as the “powerful special interests” that are accorded favored treatment in state legislatures. Instead, with Prop 54, businesses are hoping to get protection from the powerful special interests. In Sacramento, businesses get about the same gentle treatment that the L.A. Rams got in San Francisco last week. Prop 54, it is hoped, would stop the last-minute switcheroos that occur in the statehouse, such as last month’s sudden end-of-the-session deal that stipulated how to dole out $900 million from the state’s cap and trade program. Critics call this process “gut and amend,” claiming bills can be stripped of their original intent and the language replaced by whatever some powerful legislator wants. Such bills that emerge from those proverbial smoke-filled back rooms are pretty stinky and it’s not only because of the smell of tobacco. The rewritten bills are quickly jammed through the voting process, typically in the flurry at the end of the session. You have the adventure of finding out what’s in the bills after they pass. Businesses complain they are the ones that often get steamrolled in this process. Higher taxes, regulations and minimum wages are imposed on them before they have a chance to mount much of an argument. The proposition is pretty simple. It would require that every bill be posted, in its final form, for at least 72 hours before the ultimate vote. That way, those of us who are governed – including business people – can actually read and react to a bill before it is voted on. Sunshine is the best disinfectant and Proposition 54 will shed more light into the political process in Sacramento. And that would be good for all. Not only businesses. Charles Crumpley is editor and publisher of the San Fernando Valley Business Journal. He can be reached at ccrumpley@sfvbj.com.

Charles Crumpley
Charles Crumpley
Charles Crumpley has been the editor and publisher of the San Fernando Valley Business Journal since March 2016. In June 2021, it was named the best business journal of its size in the country – the fourth time in the last 5 years it won that honor. Crumpley was named best columnist – also for the fourth time in the last 5 years. He serves on two business-supporting boards and has won awards for his civic involvement. Crumpley, a former newspaper reporter, won several national awards and fellowships for his work, and he was a Fulbright scholar to Japan.
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