Let’s Get Irvine Moving
Don Wagner’s Plan to Fix Our Traffic Problems
Irvine has long been the only city of its size in California without a full time traffic engineer. Despite our obviously worsening traffic conditions, there has been too little action to fix the problem by the old council and planning commission led by one of my opponents in this race. Only recently did the city even seek professional help and undertake a comprehensive study of our traffic situation. As mayor, I will not ignore our traffic problems as we face increasing gridlock. From day one, I will work to get Irvine moving again. Here’s how:
1. Prohibit any Development that Fails to Provide Comprehensive Traffic Mitigation
For too long, the former city council and poorly led planning commission approved development projects that ignored the Master Plan. With that development came more people and more traffic. Unfortunately, though, that council and planning commission utterly failed to hold the developers accountable for increased traffic. Too little thought was given to how much new traffic would be generated by any new project, and to how our city streets and our existing residents would have deal with that traffic.
I will not vote to approve a single development project that fails to honestly, realistically, and publicly disclose the amount of traffic it will generate and to provide for comprehensive mitigation of that traffic.
I will lead a city council that demands accountability from those who potentially will increase Irvine’s already oppressive traffic. I will insist that the developers and the city council be honest about traffic and be honest about really solving the problem. Moreover, developers will pay their fair share to fix the traffic problem that they and the prior council and planning commission have created.
2. Put a Traffic Professional in Charge of Fixing our Traffic Problems
The city council is not made up of traffic professionals and I am not one either. Elected officials should not pretend that they have all the expertise and all the answers. Instead, we should look to the professionals and take their views seriously. I will do that.
I will empower a single traffic professional – a traffic czar – to oversee Irvine’s traffic and propose immediate fixes; and I will reinstate the Traffic Commission made up of citizens and traffic professionals to keep Irvine moving.
The city council has finally obtained a report on Irvine’s traffic problems from professionals in the traffic business, not just relied on the developers and their willing accomplices on the planning commission to tell them what they wanted to hear. And that study has reasonable suggestions in it, though it admits that it may not be entirely accurate assessment. In bureaucratic language, it says its “methodologies” may not accurately reflect the actual “situation.” But one such proposal it makes is to have a single point of contact for all traffic issues, not allow the problems to be spread across the bureaucracy. That is my proposed traffic czar. The person in this position will report to the Mayor weekly, and to the city council monthly, and be empowered to cut through the red tape of city hall, to hold the developers accountable for mitigation, and to work daily to fix our traffic problems. I will hold my traffic appointee accountable, and you can hold me accountable!
In addition, the public must be involved in solving our traffic problems. Again, the council members clearly do not have all the answers. Thus, I will reinstate the Traffic Commission which was shut down by the council years ago. A few council members have tried recently but been out-voted. I will vote to restore the commission and return the focus of city government to one of the biggest problems facing the city today.
3. Coordinate Traffic Solutions with CalTrans
Solutions to Irvine’s traffic problems do not lie completely with Irvine’s city government. Our roads are impacted by traffic on the freeways under the control of CalTrans. In addition, the first traffic lights on Irvine city streets off of our freeways are under control of CalTrans. As a former state elected official, I alone among the candidates for mayor have the knowledge, connections, and experience to work directly with state officials to coordinate our responses to growing traffic problems around our freeways.
I will bring my state experience to negotiations, cooperation, and coordination with the state to collectively resolve our traffic congestion at our many freeway access points.
There is a lot of work we can do with the state that will help ease our traffic problems. For example, we must assure that our traffic controls, our software governing signals, and our traffic policies are aligned with the state. Only by working together can we assure a smooth vehicle transition from state-controlled roadways to our Irvine streets. I have the experience to engage in that cooperative work with the state and pledge to use my experience to keep Irvine moving.
4. Synchronize Traffic Lights and Optimize Traffic Flow
Two immediate measures are available to increase traffic flow. Both are mentioned in the recently completed traffic study and should be implemented right away. First, improve the synchronization of traffic lights along our major, impacted thoroughfares. This is a partial but relatively easy fix. Both the recent traffic study and our local traffic police officers recognize that it should be done without delay.
Second, how often have you sat in a left turn lane with no opposing traffic while staring at a red no turn arrow? Why? The traffic study proposes that a few Irvine intersections be changed to permit left turns during non-peak hours. Again, why? Why only a few intersections and why only at certain times. If we trust drivers on our roads, we can certainly trust them to make safe left turns. You should not have to sit and wait for non-existent “opposing traffic.”
I will implement the traffic study’s proposals to synchronize lights and go beyond timid measures to allow traffic to flow without unnecessary, artificial, and frustrating restrictions.
The traffic study was clear on the facts that synchronization and the elimination of certain traffic flow restrictions like restricted left turns will reduce congestion. A city council under my leadership will implement its proposals and, working with traffic engineers and public safety officials, will expand on the good ideas in the study to empower all of our residents to help keep Irvine moving.
5. Work with Businesses to Reduce Congestion
Irvine is fortunate to have a vibrant business community. But those businesses bring a certain amount of traffic – employee and customer traffic obviously and business deliveries, among other uses of our roads. As a long-time business champion in state and local government, I will work closely with Irvine’s businesses to reduce the trips they create, and thereby reduce their significant impact on our roads.
A city council under my leadership will partner with local businesses to reduce their impact on our roads.
There are several ways to achieve these reductions. For example, the city council can work to limit commercial deliveries to non-peak hours in circumstances where such limits would not adversely affect the business or its customers. In addition, the council can encourage the use of public transit to service large numbers of commuters going into certain locations at a single time. The council can also work with the local toll agency to reduce the costs of tolls to commuters, thereby encouraging the use of the underused toll roads and relieving burdens on overused city streets. A city council with me as Mayor will look at all of those proposals, and seek more from the traffic czar and Traffic Commission, as we work cooperatively with our businesses and residents to keep Irvine moving.