Next Stop: Immobility

An A to Z Guide to Surviving the Death/Pause/Sunshine of the CenterLine


GisforGreenhut,StevenThe Orange County Register editorial writer dug the grave for the CenterLine by fusing hard stats with NIMBY-ite rhetoric in articulate editorial after articulate editorial on the subject. He was also the journalist most responsible for branding the CenterLine a "boondoggle" in Orange County's popular imagination, using it every time he trashed the trolley. He insists traffic will never improve in the county as long as OCTA continues to employ "transit guys. Mostly, they have the mindset of social engineers—they think we ought to abandon our cars and take transit." Greenhut's solution? "Widen roads, expand freeways, fix streets, improve bus service." (GA)

HisforHandicappedEven more annoying than traffic is parking. Not enough parking, abominably priced parking, too-fucking-far-away-from-the-bar parking, etc. What most people are okay with is handicapped parking; as a society, we accept that some people require that extra convenience, even as we haul ass into a wide-open handicapped space when all the standard spots are full, but only a minute later shame-facedly sprint back to our illegally parked car, feeling like a jackass. Eventually, the inevitable questions arise (perhaps just after witnessing a hugely obese man emerge from a permitted car): Just who gets to be "handicapped" and occupy the coveted spaces? Do the morbidly obese get access simply based on their weight? How long would it take to put on a deuce?" According to the DMV, anyone with a doctor's approval is granted a handicapped-parking placard. So with an M.D.'s go-ahead, fatness is reason enough for sweet parking. However, morbid obesity is also necessarily accompanied by serious health problems that can include heart failure and diabetes, and it can severely restrict mobility. Seeing as the morbidly obese are staring down both early death and social exile, being that much closer to Target is likely something we can allow. (Kate Carraway)

IisforImmobility"Immobility, I am afraid, is the future of Orange County," says UCI history professor and famed doomsayer Mike Davis. "There are no quick fixes or sci-fi maglev solutions to gridlock without a real marriage between transportation investment and regional land-use planning. And that is simply not on anyone's political agenda." Davis tells the story of how a friend who worked as a transportation planner in Southern California moved to North Carolina a few years ago, defeated. "He told me, 'The battle's lost, and the region will become one vast angry parking lot. Enjoy.'" (GA)

JisforJunkBondsIn his January state of the state address, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger promised new roads and a balanced budget. How? Privatization, a policy that ignores Orange County's unsuccessful San Joaquin Hills toll-road experiment. The cost of running the 16-mile road has exceeded budget by more than $6 billion; at one point, road bonds were downgraded to junk. Toll-road officials have asked Caltrans to slow improvements on nearby freeways in order to force more cars onto the San Joaquin, raised already-steep tolls, and devised upbeat, misleading PR campaigns. "It is proving to be quite difficult to do these projects fully privately," Robert Poole, a toll-road advocate with the libertarian Reason Foundation, said a few years ago. Even that admission was disengenuous: Orange County's toll roads were never "fully privately" funded—they are, in fact, the beneficiaries of hundreds of millions of dollars in taxpayer subsidies. But shortly after the governor announced a new day for toll roads, Poole had an updated story: "The state can't afford to do anything more than add a few lane miles here and there," he said. "The reality is that new toll roads are dramatically better than no new roads at all." Unless, of course, they end up bankrupting us first. (R. Scott Moxley)

KisforCritical(WithaK)MassIt is not easy being a cyclist in OC. Automobiles dominate, and the county's uncreative solution to increasing traffic woes is, simply, more roads. Future development—from massive housing projects to tollways—only promises more gridlock. Some motorists are incensed when bicycles share their already-overcrowded asphalt. They spew epithets, hurl projectiles, edge into bike lanes or abruptly turn across the path of cyclists. There are bike paths—some quite good—but their coverage is limited, and storm damage or snail-paced maintenance efforts may close them for months. Critical Mass wants to make it easier for cyclists. Participants band together to promote cycling through monthly group rides. The message is that cycling is a sustainable form of transportation; it does not add to traffic congestion, produces no harmful emissions and reduces dependence on foreign oil. And it emphasizes that cyclists also have a right to the road. It is only an idea. There are no leaders and no central organization. Yet it is gaining popularity nationwide. In some cities, group rides include hundreds of cyclists, often creating conflict with inconvenienced motorists and law enforcement. However, the goal is not to alienate motorists, but rather to gain their acceptance. "It's about asserting our right to the road," one website advises, "not denying others their right to the road." Interested? You can join a Long Beach ride (www.bikelongbeach.org) or get advice on how to start your own (www.criticalmass.org). If nothing else, you'll be much healthier than the fat bastard in the Hummer who just tried to clip you with his side-view mirror. (Scott Giffin)

LisforLeahy,ArtOCTA's CEO since 2001 was lured from a similar position in Minnesota after he pushed through the Hiawatha Line, the Twin Cities' own light-rail disaster. Orange County officials expected Leahy to similarly shepherd the CenterLine to greener valleys, but it was instead sent out to pasture. Leahy directed his staff to push unrealistic ridership projections that were so laughable, Orange County's congressional delegation never warmed up to OCTA's repeated pleas for federal pork. In fact, Leahy put so much effort into obtaining federal funding for the CenterLine these past couple of years that he neglected almost every other OCTA responsibility. Freeway maintenance tanked—did somebody say, "Goddamn it, I need another front-end alignment"? The bus union became angered at stalled contract talks. And the working class that compromises most of OCTA's bus ridership were burdened with higher fees and the elimination of monthly bus passes for students. Nevertheless, the OCTA Board of Trustees rewarded Leahy last fall with a contract extension, a raise and a $6,000 bonus for his "outstanding performance during the past year." (GA)

MisforMassTransitAmerican dependence on Mideast oil has produced a string of despotic regimes whose main export—after petroleum products—is popular anti-Americanism. From the toppling of the democratically elected government of Mohammed Mossadegh in Iran in 1953 and U.S. support of Saddam Hussein through the 1980s to our present-day support of the House of Saud, domestic gasoline consumption fuels Mideast fascism. That's one reason for the success of al-Qaeda. Every time you drive your car, al-Qaeda achieves a little victory; every time you park your car and take a bus, you make Osama bin Laden cry. (Will Swaim)

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