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Commentary: Traffic-free Laguna is unrealistic for real people

February 27, 2014|By Sandi Cain

Columnist Billy Fried has gone a bit too far with his vision for Laguna Beach transportation ("The dream of a traffic-free Laguna," Feb. 21).

Most municipalities that have some of the services he mentions are large cities with multiple — and sometimes even parallel — wide streets that can be alternately configured to accommodate everything from pedestrians, bikers and skateboarders to, possibly, small hovercraft.

Unfortunately, Laguna Beach does not have such roadways, and the two main arteries in and out of Laguna are not 100% controlled by the city. Look at a map. Our main arteries of Coast Highway and Laguna Canyon Road form a 'T' and are the city's only major access roads.

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The configuration of Laguna at roughly 6 miles long and about 5 miles deep also precludes solutions that may well work in, say, San Francisco or Denver.

This means that if Fried's vision as described last week were to come to pass, there probably would be other consequences, some possibly unintended.

Consider these factors:

•The businesses that could so easily accommodate all those strolling people would probably find it hard to hire staff from outside Laguna Beach, since employees would have to park on the periphery and take the bus in.

Peripheral parking is a decent idea for visitors, but there could be other consequences for employees. For instance, Disneyland offers employees time clock leeway because of distant parking lots and the time it takes to get in costume.

Might our employers need to do the same, and could they afford the extra cost? And would potential employees want the additional hassle?

•The free trolleys in the summer are great for visitors. Sadly, those trolleys on the south route are slow to the point that it can take an hour to get from the Albertson's center to the bus station downtown. That could make a lot of people late for work.

They also are wide enough that they take up just a bit more than a lane on Coast Highway, backing up other traffic hesitant to pass them.

•None of the visitors would be able to shop for anything but the smallest and lightest items, because they would have to haul their purchases back to the peripheral parking lot — and that could affect whether or not they stay and eat in Laguna.

Imagine someone wanting a beautiful big outdoor garden pot. But how to get it home?

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