Archives for category: Transportation

CollegeTowndistricts

CollegeTown, the contentious plan to re-designate 88 acres of land south of Cal State Fullerton for higher density development, comes before the Fullerton Planning Commission Wednesday night, February 10, 7:00 p.m. For months residents in the area surrounding the proposed plan area have organized to better inform their neighbors about the potential impact of creating a Specific Plan to govern dramatically increased development in what is supposed to be a walkable, downtown-like district where CSUF students can live, eat, and shop. Think Westwood in Fullerton, and then take a look at Westwood these days…

Opposition to the plan is so great that there is a website called Our Town Not College Town dedicated to stopping it:

http://www.ourtownnotcollegetown.com

Here is some official language from the agenda item:

“The applications include a General Plan Revision to change existing Community Development Types from Office, Commercial, High Density Residential and School to Specific Plan; Zoning Amendments to change zoning classifications from O-P (Office Professional), C-2 (General Commercial), and R-5 (Maximum Density Multiple-Family) to SPD (Specific Plan District) and to adopt the College Town Specific Plan; Abandonment of a portion of Nutwood and Commonwealth Avenues; and initiation of proceedings for formation of a Parking Management District and Property Based Improvement District.”

It’s the planned closure of parts of Nutwood and Commonwealth Avenues that really has nearby residents up in arms. With traffic already congested at peak (and other) hours in this area, neighbors are livid that the city plans to close parts of two major feeder roads to the adjacent 57 freeway, seemingly without a viable alternative to alleviate the resulting traffic on neighboring streets.

The Planning Commission is generally pre-disposed to approve the plan, in the opinion of the Rag, with some changes, simply because City Hall wants it to happen. The mixture of extreme property rights advocates and Chamber or Commerce cheerleaders will see to it that the developers get a chance to make the massive amounts of money they covet, without the nuisance of formulating an even close to adequate plan for traffic circulation. The rationale given will be that housing students next to the university, and building nearby services for them that won’t require them to drive outside of the district, and will ultimately reduce vehicular traffic, but is there a commitment to public transit anywhere in the plan?

The Rag encourages readers to attend the meeting (which will also be televised locally and live-cast from the city’s website) and let the Planning Commission know that the plan for an endless stream of cars and ever-growing blocks of high density development are not the only ways to plan for a livable future in our city.

LiveItUpRecto

“Hit the Bars.” What OCTA thinks you should do downtown on New Year’s Eve. (You can probably forget about the jazz).

UPDATE: Commenter, and public transit advocate, Jane Reifer alerts readers that bus lines do not actually run until 2:30 a.m, January 1. OCTA is providing free bus rides until that time, but readers should consult OCTA’s individual route schedules to find out when their last bus leaves downtown Fullerton. Ms. Reifer has helpfully supplied some of those times in the comment section below. For complete bus schedules, check OCTA’s website: www.octa.net.

The Orange County Transportation Authority would like to make sure you get home safely New Year’s Eve by offering free bus service until 2:30 a.m., January 1. Discouraging people from driving drunk is a good idea, but sending a mailer to local residents encouraging them to “Live It Up!” in Fullerton’s downtown might be confusing to anyone who is planning to attend the city-organized alcohol-free First Night celebration, scheduled to take place in the middle of the same downtown.

First Nights are offered nationwide by participating cities. Fullerton advertises itself as the only city in Orange County to offer a First Night celebration, a family friendly alternative to traditional drunken revelries of New Year’s Eve. The city’s website describes it as an “annual alcohol-free New Year’s Eve celebration of the arts and will look to include children’s activities as well as live music, art galleries and a 10-minute fireworks show finale that will cap the celebration at midnight”. First Night Fullerton has been generally well attended. After a 2012 budget-related cancellation, the city increased sponsorship in order to provide what it claims is a cost neutral event.

FirstNightEmail

What the City of Fullerton invites families to experience (enjoy the cover bands!).

First Night has been celebrated downtown since before the area became saturated with bars and restaurants with full liquor licenses in the past decade. The alcohol-free event has existed fairly peacefully alongside the party district on one the major drinking holidays of the year, but OCTA seems to intent on confusing the two activities in a large postcard mailer recently sent to residents. “LIVE IT UP!” implores a headline on the front side of the card, along with instructions to “Go ahead and celebrate in Downtown Fullerton,” and “Hit the bars. Listen to Jazz. Enjoy a great meal. Or, attend First Night Fullerton. No need for a designated driver..,”

LiveItUpVerso

“You really can’t beat free!” Free advertising for downtown bars, that is. How did the alcohol-free First Night get mixed up in this business?

In addition to being evidently clueless about the closing of Steamers, Fullerton’s only jazz club, over six months ago, OCTA seems awfully confused about what First Night Fullerton is supposed to represent. The back side of the card even features a multicolored map of the downtown area, complete with the locations of entertainment stages, the fireworks show, a “Kids Lane” with a giant bouncer, and nearly twenty different restaurants and bars, and their proximity to the bus lines offering free rides to presumably inebriated patrons.

It would be tempting to assume that someone at OCTA just didn’t get the message about First Night Fullerton, but the Rag’s conversation with a member of the transportation agency’s marking department proved otherwise. OCTA reportedly worked with both the Chamber of Commerce and the City of Fullerton to develop the mailer, which suggests a major conflict of interest between simultaneously promoting both a family friendly, alcohol-free night out and a roster of bars and restaurants who want to attract patrons on New Year’s Eve. The Chamber of Commerce, which receives taxpayer money from the City of Fullerton’s budget, ought to know the difference between the two, but was evidently comfortable colluding with OCTA to invite drinkers to downtown Fullerton in the middle of an annual family event designed as an alternative to a liquor-soaked New Year’s Eve.

The aforementioned OCTA marketing staffer who worked on the promotion acknowledged that the mailer should have explained in more detail what the First Night celebration was about, and that oversight, on that point, “was kind of missing.” She also acknowledged that the bars and restaurants had not paid to have their names listed, leaving residents to wonder why an Orange County government agency privileged free advertising of privately owned food and alcohol establishments over an alcohol-free public event organized by the City of Fullerton.

It could be argued that inviting prospective patrons to ride the bus both removes the danger of drunk drivers and frees up parking for First Night patrons, but how did OCTA get into the business of free promotional mailers in the first place? The agency, which regularly cuts bus services during the rest of the year ought to find ways to provide critically needed transportation for those who depend upon it during their long work weeks instead of inviting even more drinkers to our downtown area in the middle of an event designed to help families celebrate a safe holiday.

Image taken from the L.A. Times (without permission).

Image taken from the L.A. Times (without permission).

65th District Assemblymember Young Kim has introduced a bill that would prohibit a controversial plan to add toll lanes to Interstate 405 without direct approval by voters. The move would prevent the addition of a toll lane to the freeway as part of Measure M2-funded improvements, which already include extra lanes in both directions on one of the most congested highways in the state. Arguing that Caltrans “does not have the legislative authority to own or operate toll lanes anywhere in the state,” and that no mention of tolls appeared in the ballot language for Measure M2, the half cent sales to fund transportation improvements, Ms. Kim introduced AB 1459, to require a two-thirds majority approval by voters before any “toll facility” could be built in Orange County.

The OC Register, who endorsed Young Kim for her seat last year, disagrees with her, contending that by transforming the existing carpool lane into one that still allows carpools but also allows single driver vehicles to use it for a fee, freeway traffic will move faster. The Register even acknowledges that the scheme smacks of double taxation, except that “use of these lanes would be entirely voluntary.”

Like her predecessor, Sharon Quirk-Silva, Young Kim sits on the Assembly Transportation Committee. Sharon Quirk-Silva supporter Vern Nelson over at the Orange Juice blog recently recalled that last year Ms. Quirk-Silva and fellow Democrat Tom Daly both allowed a similar bill penned by Allan Monsoor to “quietly die in committee last year by boldly abstaining (so as not to piss off the dread Teamsters and Building Trades who see toll lanes as a makework slush fund.)”

What’s a Republican to do when a left-wing blog supports her bill but the right-wing county newspaper doesn’t?

Here is one suggestion: Instead of rearranging the deck chairs on our Titanically dysfunctional freeway system, why not focus on long term solutions that include mass transit? If we can devote $15.8 billion to widening freeways, why can’t we upgrade our bus system to optimum functionality, and add bike infrastructure to get more drivers off of the road in the first place?

Sharon Quirk-Silva will host a fundraiser next week to kick off her bid to reclaim the 65th Assembly seat in 2016. The Rag challenges both candidates to identify ways to fund mass transit for commuters, instead of arguing over how to spend money to alleviate perennially congested automobile traffic.

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