March 1, 1997
Berkeley City Council
City of Berkeley
2180 Milvia Street
Berkeley, California 94704
Re: Ashby Avenue Gridlock
The City's attempts to deal with traffic, as the saying goes, would be funny, if they weren't so tragic.
First, there is the myth, immortalized by the highway lobby, that, like matter and energy, traffic can neither be created nor destroyed -- it "has to go somewhere". Researchers in England have finally admitted what we knew instinctively all along: expanding the road system creates traffic, and conversely, removing auto facilities (road & parking space) reduces traffic. Therefore, the solution to the problem of too much traffic in Berkeley is simple: remove all of the freeway access ramps (Tunnel Road, Ashby, University, and Gilman) and reduce parking space as much as possible: remove parking structures, rather than build new ones, and use the parking lane on all streets as a bicycle- and emergency vehicle lane, rather than for parking. After all, for environmental reasons, all long-distance travel should be by rail or bus, and all local travel should be by light rail, bus, bicycle, or foot. As PedEx (Pedal Express) has demonstrated, even freight can be carried by bicycle.
Then there is the myth that you can somehow separate "good" traffic (e.g. our own cars, or shoppers's cars) from "bad" traffic (other people's cars, or non-revenue-producing cars). That is like trying to create a walled community with no criminals inside the walls. As Blackhawk (a community of millionaires) has amply proved, that is impossible! I just love hearing my neighbors talk about how their driving is okay, but other people's driving in our neighborhood is not! It just proves that comedians will never run out of material.
Of course, in all this discussion, no one mentions air pollution, traffic deaths and injuries (the reason for most emergency room visits, along with other car-related maladies, such as inactivity-caused heart attacks), global warming (which will flood I-80, solving most of the problem), ozone depletion (due, in the U.S., mostly to auto air conditioners), or the imminent end of our oil supplies (which will also solve this problem). Of what use are our much-celebrated brains (I thought Berkeley was supposed to be a world-class concentration of brainpower...), if we ignore, or are too afraid or lazy to implement, what they tell us?
Michael J. Vandeman, Ph.D.