Anyone west of Lincoln last week would have been forgiven for thinking the global pandemic was over. Beaches were packed, parking lots were full and Downtown streets were gridlocked. The unending flow of cars onto and off of the freeway make it clear this was driven by Angelenos desperate for a release from lockdown and we have to nip this in the bud before we have weeks of disastrous travel and/or a serious traffic accident.
At this point, we’re beyond arguing about the morals of people traveling and dithering about whether or not people should be here is futile. They will be here, in large numbers and for the duration of the summer. We need to immediately adjust our mindset and dive head first into a significant traffic mitigation effort.
The problem, as it often is, is really focused on Downtown. Traffic was a nightmare along 4th, 2nd/Main, Olympic and Ocean. While Lincoln is always busy, it wasn’t nearly as bad as the downtown area and Main Street was practically empty in comparison.
It’s easy to blame the gridlock on the newly reconfigured Ocean Ave. The removal of a traffic lane and creation of a protected bike lane are unquestionably better for bikes but it’s terrible for cars. A single vehicle pulling into or out of the parking spots can unilaterally halt traffic along the length of the street and down the Incline.
However, this is actually a very easy fix. There’s no reason visitors heading downtown should travel on Ocean from the Incline at all. They should come off the Incline, be directed over Ocean and then down 2nd and 4th. Taking Downtown traffic off Ocean would leave it free for those drivers who are going south of Colorado and while there would be an increase in traffic on the other two roads, it could be distributed enough to be manageable.
The redesign is still terrible for a heavily used road, but it’s not the big problem right now.
The problem was the lemming-like mentality of thousands of visitors who all insisted on using the 4th street onramp to get on the 10. Drivers flowing out of downtown were taking Ocean, 2nd/Main and 4th in huge numbers. The unending flow backed up the entire downtown area. Drivers were blocking intersections to make left turns, blocking intersections to beat the lights and making dangerous maneuvers to go around backups.
I don’t know if it was the reliance on GPS, the memory of where they got off the Freeway or just past habit but that one onramp might as well have been the only Freeway access point in the city given the amount of people using it.
We’ve got to get people to head over to Lincoln or even Cloverfield. It’s far easier said than done as Lincoln is a mess coming from the north but if we use a combination of signage and traffic staff to push some people to Pico and then up to Lincoln, that would help. Even better would be diverting them up to the city’s eastern Freeway ramp but there’s almost no way to convince tourists to travel 20 blocks inland on what is likely to be an already busy street.
However we approach this, we have to do it quickly. Santa Monica isn’t responsible for the flood of visitors we’re going to get in the coming weeks but if there’s a serious injury or death due to our poor planning, that is absolutely our responsibility.