November 4-11, 2009

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Letters to the Editor

Electrified by Car Article

ERIC JOHNSON's article in this week's paper was outstanding ("Power Play," Cover story, Oct. 28). It was so well written and so compelling that I hung on every word. I can't say that about a lot of other subjects, but this was absolutely captivating. I knew there was a reason I was hanging onto my 1996 Mazda gas-powered car as long as possible--because I was waiting for a worthy/affordable replacement electric car and I don't feel like the Prius is it. While the Prius is very popular and well engineered, the design? UGH! Kudos to Eric Johnson and all the visionaries out there who are working on this project. I'm confident my 1996 Mazda will be a thing of the past very soon.

Sandra Cohen,
Santa Cruz

All Caltrans' Excuses

PAUL ELERICK's comments on Caltrans' arrogance regarding the public's interest ("Why We're Suing Caltrans," Bullhorn, Oct. 28) seem to me to be on the mark. I live right across from the northbound onramp from the Morrissey loop and the Rooney Street onramp.Those drivers who use this ramp will notice that there is a huge gap in the sound wall. The noise from the highway exceeds environmental standards and directly impacts the tranquility of my immediate neighbors and myself.

I have been trying for several years to get Caltrans to install a low-level barrier on the island which separates the onramp lane from the highway lanes to reduce the noise. From my observations most of the noise comes from the impact of tires to roadbed. The solution I propose is simple and cheap, I guess under $5,000 at most. Given that Caltrans' budget for this fiscal year is around $13 billion, the sum involved for this minor project comes out to parking meter pocket change for most of us.

I will spare the readers the nightmare of bureaucratic intransigence I have encountered. All Caltrans' excuses don't stand up to reason. Eventually the District Five Office (they are responsible of this area of Highway 1) not so subtly told me not to bother them anymore.

I have spoken with the Santa Cruz Regional Transportation Commission, our various elected state and county representatives or their local office people, all to no avail. Although sympathetic, they too seem to encounter the same bureaucratic inertia to common in our various government agencies.

I applaud Mr. Elerick's effort to remind Caltrans that it is responsible to the people they are supposed to serve. Maybe we need a collective effort to send them all hearing aids since they seem to have a problem hearing what "We the People" have to say.

Don Dibble,
Santa Cruz

Is This Our Future?

ONCE upon a time, the standard answer to traffic congestion on a freeway like Highway 1 was to add capacity by adding lanes. But more and more transportation planning research is showing that's not a cost- effective answer in urban areas that are already congested. When congestion is heavy and there is much latent demand for more trips during the peak hours, adding lanes induces faster growth of the automotive system, leading to renewed congestion on a grander scale.

Renewed congestion can develop in just a few years, despite hundreds of millions of dollars being spent. In the case of the proposed Soquel to Morrissey Auxiliary Lanes project on Highway 1, some congestion would continue immediately on opening, with the project traffic study showing new bottlenecks occurring immediately downstream in both directions.

So then the answer is proposed to be the HOV Lanes Project, which would widen Route 1 to eight lanes for most of the stretch from Highway 17 to San Andreas Road. But that project's traffic study forecasts that if the HOV Lanes were built, growth in daily traffic volume on Highway 1 by the year 2035 would be in the 45 percent to 70 percent range. Some specific onramps and offramps would have volume increases of well over 100 percent. Does anybody suppose all those additional cars would need somewhere to go, before they get on Highway 1, and after they get off? Is that the sustainable future we want to plan and build for?

The recent "350" (parts per million of CO2) public events in Santa Cruz publicized the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions if we don't wish to be floating in gondolas down Pacific Avenue. The cost-efficient way to achieve that, in our transportation sector, is to shift new transportation investments to infrastructure and demand- management programs that support alternatives to the automobile. It's been done elsewhere, and can be done here. Especially promising: the rail corridor may soon be in public ownership. This is an alternate travel corridor parallel to Highway 1, which many residents have never even seen the length of. It could support a bicycle expressway, pedestrian trail, and a starter trolley or express busway service (all proven compatible with continuing rail freight service), but it will need funding. I would not expect we'll have the money, if we keep giving the lion's share to the car.

Jack Nelson,
Santa Cruz

Inspired by McKibben

THANK YOU for a great article ("None Like It Hot," Cover Story, Oct. 21). I sit on the Go Green committee for our company, Entertainment Partners, and picked up a copy of the magazine while on a four-day mini trip up north last weekend. I will be sharing this article with the committee and the company as we continue to try to do our part to help the planet.

I appreciate the story and what a great job Bill McKibben is doing by sacrificing his time away from his wife and daughter to make a difference in this world for our very existence on this planet.

Jeannie Allen,

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