How Fact-Based Smart Growth can counter Traffic Congestion


Transit Talking Points by: Nicholas Ventrone, Community Engagement Director

Inland Empire residents and workers are well aware that traffic congestion here at home is one of the worst. To name a few examples, try a commute between Lake Elsinore and Irvine, El Monte to Victorville, or West LA to Corona.

The Los Angeles Times published an article citing the fact that as the local economy is slowly improving, so is the rise of traffic congestion. Generally speaking, a healthier economy means more people and commerce moving around. Thus, more folks are using the infrastructure which leads to more cars on the road. Interesting enough, we still have a long way to go before the Inland economy becomes robust with abundant job opportunities and higher salaries. That means we need to find efficient and fair solutions to get people to work without the long distance commuting.

But what I found interesting in the piece was a statement by Alan E. Pisarski, a transportation policy consultant and author of several analysis reports on transportation. Pisarski told the newspaper that the "best solution to congestion is, unfortunately, unemployment."

While it may look foolish on the surface, I'm not going to pass judgement on this statement simply because Mr. Pisarski has a long record of distinguished writings and has raised some very valid points on transportation issues. I believe those points were simply omitted in the reportage.

The truth is there are several workable solutions to counter traffic congestion as the economy recovers. Those include improving transit, carpool and high occupancy vehicle lanes and infrastructure; incentivizing telecommuting jobs and meetings; better controlling traffic flow with ramp meters and synchronized signals, and general capacity improvement projects. 

One other solution that will generally work across the board which I want to focus on is fact-based smart growth. And such smart growth plans need to be fair and determined at the local level based on facts and demographics, not ideology.

Fact-Based Smart Growth Straight Talk

Coalition Concept: A conceptual local engineering firm and upgraded street infrastructure on Perris Blvd in Moreno Valley. Why commute out of town when high paying jobs can be smartly integrated into our own Inland cities? Besides logistics job growth, how can Moreno Valley entice more business growth along its commercial corridors?
Note: Concept only. Not an official proposal.
Critics have long criticized some of the more ideological positions of smart growth and their valid points of higher per-capita government expenditures in higher density areas, housing values, and the freedom for the marketplace to grow the economy cannot be ignored. On the other front, we all know that there must be efficient oversight to prevent developer pandering, pollution, sprawl, and traffic congestion.

One point I need to make very clear is that I am not promoting any policies that would obstruct our freedom of choosing where to live and how big the living space should be. Nor are we desiring to obstruct the development of housing supplies to meet market demands. Also, we're not calling for greater population density. This is not about pandering to any ideological agenda. This is fact-based smart economic growth aimed at combating traffic congestion by having better growth plans in place that would incentivize a more balanced job to housing ratio for the area. 

How Smart Growth done right can address Traffic Trouble

Specifically, the smart growth solution based on facts can be integrated three ways:
  1. Incentivizing the market to bring jobs closer to home
  2. Growing housing supply in existing job-rich regions where demands are higher
  3. Revitalizing existing blighted or troubled neighborhoods at the county seat cities to further expand good housing options and good schools to incentivize employees to live where they work.
I'll be covering the three solutions more in detail in the following weeks.