From the publishers

Signal of my discontent

by Carolyn Chase
actually noticed my quality of life edge downward last week. Unlike most factors in a region's declining quality of life which tends to creep up on you over a period of years or decades this was single moment, a glaring signal of growth overtaking infrastructure's capacity to cope. For many people, it hits home when they see the beach closure signs, as reported in this annual beach issue. For others, it's when a natural area is paved over for a parking lot, or when a favorite tree is chopped down.

For me, it happened on my way home from a visit to the UCSD Geisel library. During most of the year, I have occasion to be on campus at least once a week. My regular route is to exit the campus past the VA hospital, make a left turn to La Jolla Village Drive, cruise happily south onto Highway 5. The entry to I-5 is one of the nicest banked ramps in the system: the kind where you have plenty of room to get up to speed so you can merge safely and easily with the traffic.

But no longer. Last week, rather than cruising up to speed along a beautiful, designed entry way, I was brought to an abrupt halt by a end-of-the-entry-ramp signal, blindly bringing me down to zero and demanding that I stop all forward momentum and progress, then reaccelerate in a shorter distance from zero at the very end of the bank. This requires more fuel, acceleration over a much, much smaller merging distance and more time waiting at the signal. This flies in the face of any design there ever was for this system. And for what?

I have never encountered heavy traffic in this section, except in the case of an accident. The signal was in operation at a relatively off-hour of the day, when there was no significant traffic. I calculate that, given the number of times I use this entry way, this needless delay will cost me an extra half-hour or more over the course of a year. Not counting, of course, more fuel wasted with a rapid acceleration and more risk entering traffic at a slower speed. And for what?

I first noticed this type of signal in yes folks Los Angeles, where the freeway backups are legendary and persistent, and the signals are pervasive. The signals are becoming pervasive here as well. Now I'm beginning to wonder... do the signals come before or after the problems? It seems there will certainly come a day when most will never remember what it was like to be able to freely enter the freeways; these people will suffer no sense of loss. The status quo will simply have been reduced for the theoretical good of all. By then, I guess, the planners at Caltrans have figured that traffic will be so bad that everyone will see what a good thing these signals are. But will somebody explain to me exactly why these ramp police are needed when the traffic level is moving fast and easy? Or is this just another sign of the end of the era of "freeways." Can we can look forward to having a stop sign at every entrance just so we can make a running start from zero to 60 in just a few feet, while the on ramp is used as a stop-and-go waiting ramp?

Quality of life can be an ephemeral thing, I suppose. And I guess it's healthy to begin to separate any quality of life that I have attached to my car and way things used to be before we decided that the route to regional success was continued growth, growth, growth. After all, if the next million people to come here for our prosperity need another million cars, the resulting backups are obvious. Therefore, Caltrans is just a bit ahead of the game by installing these systems now.

Maybe so. But at ten at night, after choir rehearsal each week, you just might see one citizen defying this mindless and wasteful system, enjoying a nostalgic, illegal, but safer and greatly more satisfying entry on the way home.

Correction: In the July issue, an editing error in Minister Masada's column on the Port District usage and venting of methyl bromide led to a combination of sentences implying that she might, under some conditions, endorse the position that there could be an acceptable use of a Category 1 acute toxin near a population. This is not the case, and we regret this error. In the meantime, the Port has finally acceded to community demands and decided to stop the fumigations.

Development plans for the Del Mar Mesa (Highway 56 routing, Carmel Mountain, Neighborhood 8A, the Future Urbanizing area) are moving ahead. Please join me at a Town Hall forum at the Carmel Valley Library on August 20th (see page 15) to take a look at how efforts to conserve are faring against efforts to build and how to take part. Please come up to me and say hello, if you're able to attend.