15 months ago, the City Council initiated a Traffic Management Study to “analyze current traffic congestion” and identify strategies to “improve traffic flow in the City.” The completed study includes a number of unsurprising findings and relatively minor recommendations. But the study does not address the elephant in the room — the wildly excessive residential growth and development that has created a true traffic congestion crisis in Irvine.
In matters of government, what do you do when you’ve created a huge problem, but you don’t want to admit it, and you certainly don’t want to do what it takes to fix it? Why, of course, you commission a “study” — the bigger, the better. And you tell the authors of the study not to come back for a long time.
That’s precisely what has happened in Irvine. In March of 2015, amid a rising tide of anger over growth-induced traffic congestion — which is the result of pro-developer, fast-growth policies — the Mayor and City Council outsourced the preparation of a “Citywide Traffic Management Study.”
The study, prepared by Albert Grover & Associates, was delivered to the Irvine Planning Commission for review in April of 2016, and to the City Council in late June. While the study generally applauds the City’s investments in infrastructure and traffic management, it tiptoes around the question of why traffic in Irvine has gotten so bad.
Former City Councilmember and current Planning Commissioner Mary Ann Gaido spoke directly to what she called “the central issue.” “Look,” said Gaido, who is a candidate for Mayor, “it’s obvious that the current Mayor and City Council majority are rubber-stamping new residential development at the fastest rate in Irvine’s history. Thousands more houses and apartments mean thousands more cars and car trips — and much more traffic congestion.” Gaido added, “There is such a thing as too much development, too fast. It’s called overdevelopment, and it threatens to unravel 45 years of careful planning in Irvine.”
Speaking to the question of remedies, Gaido said we need a “Comprehensive Growth and Traffic Control Ordinance.” She added, “But most of all we need a Mayor and City Councilmembers who have the courage to say NO to FivePoint Communities and other fast-growth developers who have little regard for our City’s General Plan and long-range planning principles.”
The Traffic Study included recommendations — embraced by Gaido and others — to expand the popular iShuttle system, invest further in synchronized traffic light systems, and improve school bus transportation to deal with the “A.M. crush” at schools.
In the course of conducting the Traffic Study, the consultants surveyed hundreds of Irvine residents. By far the largest percentage — 53% — said the top congestion factor was “residential traffic from increasing population.”
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