Glendale is facing a serious traffic problem. We want our downtown to be a destination for local residents and visitors, but many of us dread going downtown because of the congestion and parking challenges. Rush hours are increasingly unbearable and could affect the City’s ability to attract and retain businesses. We also have an unacceptable level of unsafe driving and pedestrian fatalities, and not surprisingly pay some of the highest car insurance rates in America.
If there were easy solutions, these problems would have been fixed long ago. There is no silver bullet. But if we apply clear thinking and draw from the best practices of other cities, we can start to chip away at the problem.
First, let’s get a traffic study done. Glendale has not done a comprehensive traffic study in over 40 years. Before we commit to any major new development, we need to study what can be done in the short run to relieve some of the pressure.
Second, we need to carefully manage development. We cannot let density outstrip the infrastructure we have in place to handle it. Unfortunately, our “anything goes” approach to approving projects has forgotten the fact that most of us are forced to drive, and that cars take up space. Glendale has done more than its fair share in adding housing, and we need to make sure this is recognized when the State hands down new housing targets. I will fight for sensible targets. I will also insist that the limited development we do have is focused on quality affordable housing, not luxury condos, and certainly not more hotels.
Third, we need to make it safer to walk and bike, not just downtown but everywhere. Safety starts with better traffic enforcement and more serious consequences for reckless drivers. We will also need to adopt state-of-the-art road designs that naturally discourage drivers from driving at speeds above the posted limits. It’s past time for Glendale to adopt a Vision Zero to eliminate pedestrian and cyclist fatalities. Besides saving lives, this will have the side benefit of reducing those out-of-control insurance rates.
Finally, we need to give people realistic options to ditch the car. These include better mass transit and better bike infrastructure. Cities with higher levels of transit and bicycle usage are more economically vibrant, healthier, safer and sustainable. We put together a bike master plan years ago, but how much has been implemented? How is it that we’ve been totally bypassed when it comes light rail? Every person riding a bike or taking transit is potentially one less car on the road, which benefits those of us that have no choice but to drive. This is a regional problem which will require a regional solution, but it starts with strong leadership and vision right here.
If we take a thoughtful approach which draws on hard evidence and the experience of successful cities, we can make Glendale a model for the region and a place we remain proud to call home.