November 30, 1993 - From the November, 1993 issue

Letter to the Editor: A Labyrinthine Solution to Air Pollution and Traffic Congestion

Nick Patsaouras, an alternate Board Member with the MTA, provides this letter in opposition to the Congestion Management Program (CMP). 

I was recently presented with a complex proposal by regional transportation planners for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority that again confirmed in my mind the fact that government regulations are robbing us of our economic security. The state-mandated congestion management program (CMP) for the Los Angeles metropolitan area, part of a bill authored by Assemblyman Richard Katz, has resulted in this proposal called the "deficiency plan," which will debit new business development for traffic congestion. The deficiency plan, being developed at a cost of millions of dollars, will tell us what we already know: certain highways and intersections are in gridlock.

When severe budget cutbacks seem inevitable for many essential public services including law enforcement, the taxpayers should not have to pay for more planners and consultants to study traffic congestion in Los Angeles. We do not need more consultants and studies to tell us about traffic congestion. In this period of extreme financial hardship, I seriously question the state of transportation planning. The newly adopted congestion management program of the Los Angeles Transportation Agency attempts to link land use, transportation and air quality decisions in the cities. This goal is important. However, this program is typical of the legislature's simplistic approach of trying to solve every problem by passing more laws. 

Now, under state law, every city must subscribe to the tenets of the program regarding transportation planning, or else lase critical state money. The planning policies are proclaimed by the regional planners, and the tough implementing actions are forced on the cities. 

The problem is that there are too many competing and conflicting layers of bureaucracy in the transportation planning business. The same cities subscribing to the congestion management program also submit to the conflicting and confusing regulations of the Air Quality Management District, which is simultaneously measuring the same traffic circulation, and proposing its own regulations on the use of private automobiles. The Air Quality Management District proposals are overlapping, competing and inconsistent with those of the transportation agency. 

Additionally, yet another agency, the Southern California Association of Governments, is developing its own regional mobility and air quality plans, also focusing attention on the cities which must accept another set of complex, inconsistent mandates. Meanwhile, the state law also directs every city to prepare and coordinate general plans concerning the same patterns and problems of traffic circulation. Again, the implementation work is done at the city level. 

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These state and regional mandates on the cities are not coordinated. The conflicted, always complex, panning regulations are costing vast sums of money and creating the need for more consultants and more studies, disincentives to development, and more work for the beleaguered cities. Meanwhile, of course, federal air quality regulations threaten to regulate the same urban traffic pattern, in even more severe ways, also with the declared aim of improving air quality and traffic. Again, the federal policies will have to be implemented at the city level.

Business development in our major metropolitan area, so vital to the state and national economy and the creation of jobs, cannot afford to be restrained by competing disincentives or prohibitions. Air quality, and better traffic circulation are worthy goals, but we cannot afford single purpose agencies to dictate land use development to the cities at the expense of millions of people dependent on the economic vitality of this region.

And we surely cannot afford to simultaneously pursue much longer the competing, overlapping, and conflicting regulations on traffic management at the federal, state and regional level. With greater frequency, these critical planning programs are imposed by legislators on unsuspecting cities at great expense, and with disastrous consequences for the business community and people dependent on jobs.

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