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Designed For Disaster

Clyde Wilson 1994 Published in: Northwest Area News, August 1994, No. 126  

The captions reads: City That Lives By Car Has Nowhere To Go.

The earthquake in the Los Angeles area brought out how vulnerable a city could be that depends on the automobile and the consumption of oil for transportation and as a mainstay in the operation of its economy. In an attempt to alleviate the ever increasing traffic congestion, more roads and freeways are built, requiring more and more of the land area, and bringing about greater dislocation. This insidious approach to the problem can only lead to a dead end.

When the freeways of the Los Angeles environs came tumbling down, buckled or collapsed, leaving thousands of everyday working commuters and vehicles stranded with nowhere to go, it brought home to millions of people residing in the area how vulnerable and dependent the cities of the region have become on the combustion engine.

Even without the disaster of an earthquake—and there will be more to come—the entrenched hodge-podge design of the highway system has been reaching a point where the average speed on the streets and freeways is only 20 mph, and where traffic continues to stop and crawl bumper to bumper for long periods of time during peak periods. Constant maintenance and construction only adds to the delays and congestion of traffic.

Los Angeles and the surrounding towns and cities grew in a topsy-turvy manner without any planning or design to meet the necessary and essential requirements of the area. As a result, Los Angeles and its environs developed into just another sprawling megalopolis.

In a conspiracy, the automobile and petroleum industries, along with the support of other vested interests, bought out the city dads (a general situation that permeates government officials throughout the country) to make sure that Los Angeles’ streetcars and rail systems would be scuttled or scrapped, seeing to it that all rails and tracks, and all related facilities were dismantled, never to be a threat to their interests. This collusion between the power brokers doomed the area to its present meandering maze. (As a mainstay of the present system, any development and investment that maximizes profits has no bounds or scruples.)

Considering the jumble and clutter of its present infrastructural complex, one can realize what a ponderous undertaking it would be to reconstruct and redesign Los Angeles, or any other major city in the United States, into a functional and efficient social and technological operation. The dislocation and relocation of thousands of people in the area while cleaning up the mess and the damage made by the present economic system would present a herculean task. To determine the feasibility of any plan for reconstruction of any city, region or the nation, a comprehensive assessment of all factors and necessary requirements (resources or otherwise) would have to be taken into consideration. But everything hinges on a transition from the present entrenched financial superstructure that is responsible for the present hodge-podge in the first place.

The United States has enough natural disasters and man-made calamities to cope with and keep it preoccupied for now and sometime in the future without going all over the world looking for and creating trouble. If the United States cannot get its priorities straight and solve its own domestic problems, how can it solve the myriad of problems that continue to confront this volatile world?

 

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