LA traffic

“Los Angeles gives one the feeling of the future more strongly than any city I know of. A bad future, too.” —Henry Miller

When Geoffrey went to L.A. in 1980 everyone drove a car and there was a semi-permanent brown atmospheric haze from the pollution.

The population of the City was then 3 million and the County (which includes the City and 87 other municipalities) was 7.5 million.  Since then both figures have increased by a third.

Traffic congestion which wasn’t so bad outside of peak times is now almost a constant, despite the steady expansion of the LA Metro train system.

Some things have improved, though: tough vehicle emission standards have reduced the amount of air pollution quite noticeably.

Crime has lessened: in 1980 it was a seedy place with the reputation of the bank-robbery capital of America. The homicide rate had reached an all-time peak of 34 per 100,000. It is now about a fifth of the 1980 level.  Skyrocketing accommodation costs have gentrified the whole area — even a house in gangland Compton will cost $US 350,000-400,000.

There has even been a small but significant decline in car use accompanied by an increase in public transport use according to this 2013 article.

“The guys who wrote the transportation study suggest that “public officials should begin to move money away from highway expansion and toward projects that encourage transit use, bicycling and walking.” California might never give up its moronic freeway projects (e.g., the 405 Freeway widening nightmare, which will not actually improve traffic), but in the past few years, SoCal has gotten very serious about expanding the Metro rail and busway system, installing new bike infrastructure, and creating more pedestrian-friendly streets and public places.”

The lesson is that population growth is not painless — it brings problems.

New Zealand’s population since 1980 hasn’t grown by one third; it has grown by one half.  Wellington’s population growth has been in line with that.

The previous central government’s main response to the country’s growing population was building more motorways, particularly around Auckland, but also, of course, northwest out of Wellington.

Locally, the KCDC has been overjoyed: the council makes no secret that it sees more residents as more contributors to pay for the growth of its Empire.

But an excess of demand over supply for houses means housing becomes steadily less affordable, and it’s clear that even the present subdivsion frenzy in Waikanae is making no difference.

Clearly, the government must put the brakes on immigration, and hard.

When the ‘Ewy’ gets to Otaki that should be it.  Instead of extending it to Levin, the capacity of the railways should be improved; locally by double tracking from Waikanae to Palmerston North and by not only providing commuter trains as far as Otaki, but further north.

Public transport needs to be cheap enough for it to be the attractive option; fares here are high by L.A. and even Sydney standards.

Most importantly locally, good quality farmland needs to stay as that and not get turned into more housing estates.  There are optimums to desirable population sizes: Waikanae’s is almost at that stage and the other Kapiti townships are quickly reaching them.

Waikanae from Hadfield

Looking south from Hadfield Road in Peka Peka towards Waikanae.  If present policies continue, how long will it be until all the pasture is covered with houses?