The Los Angeles Times has a piece of investigative journalism from Steve Lopez this week covering one of the hidden tales of abuse and injustice which fails to make it on the evening news in most places. We’re not talking about racism, sexual harassment, antisemitism, systemic poverty or anything of the sort. No, this is something far more insidious. Motorists in California (and other places) are using navigation apps such as Waze to minimize their travel time from place to place. Given the volume of traffic in much of California, this means that many drivers are refusing to stay on the clogged freeways and going through residential areas to avoid traffic.
For people like Pam Sobo of Encino, this means that her quaint, out of the way neighborhood has turned into a living hell.
“Please help me and others who live on Ballina Canyon Road,” Sobo wrote after she saw my column on diverted drivers spinning out on the crazy Baxter Street incline in Echo Park. “Waze has killed our street. Ruined our neighborhood.”
There’s a stop sign in front of Sobo’s house. In the morning, cars pull to a halt (or not) and then hit the gas to blast up the hill.
Everybody is in a hurry in Los Angeles. We’ll do anything to shave 10 seconds off a commute, unwilling to change our evil ways (which has more than one spelling).
“This is nothing,” Sobo told me Tuesday morning as we stood in front of her house and watched the unchained caravan of cars roar by, the racket pounding through the canyon. “This is pretty light.”
Lopez goes on to commiserate with the tales of woe from several more residents who complain about everything from drivers going too fast (one woman worried her child might be hit by a car) to noise to the mail being delivered later than it previously was. Another homeowner in the area is selling her house, partly because of all the traffic. They all seem quite indignant and angry. By the time I was done reading the article I was fairly angry too, but for a different reason.
If I could just have a word with these disgruntled residents of quaint neighborhoods, I’d like to pose a couple of questions. First of all, do you see that broad strip of asphalt running in front of your house? It’s called a road. People drive on roads to get from place to place. It so happens that the one running through your neighborhood connects a couple of different places where a lot of commuters wish to travel to and from. Your freeways look like parking lots so some of them are opting to take a different route.
That road is not private. You didn’t pay for it yourself. The taxpayers fund the construction and repair of it and everyone gets to use it. If that bothers you so much, perhaps you could move someplace where there is no road. That would solve one of your problems, but probably generate a few new ones to replace it.
Simply because there used to be less traffic, that doesn’t mean that you get to dictate who uses the road. If I want to come out there and drive around the neighborhood for no reason at all other than sightseeing, I’m allowed to do so. This entire argument is as bad as the people complaining about “gentrification” of their neighborhoods, though the whining is coming from the opposite end of the economic spectrum in this case. Things change over time. People move in and others move out. Traffic patterns shift. The world doesn’t remain in an eternal condition of stasis simply to assure your comfort.
My neighborhood has changed a fair amount since I bought my house here more than twenty years ago. I don’t care for all the changes, but thus far I’ve adapted. When I retire I’ll probably sell it and move someplace I find even more to my liking and which meets our changing needs. All of you in Encino have precisely the same options. You can deal with the changing conditions or you can move. But please just keep this one point in mind:
You don’t get to dictate who uses the road just because it runs past your house.