by RIP RENSE
(Aug. 6, 2003)
I don't often indulge off-color phrases
in this column, so be warned: I am making an exception.
I hereby invoke a favorite vulgarism for
describing people who have tricked themselves into particularly preposterous points of
"His (or her) head's so far up his ass
that it's coming out his mouth again."
I have found no more worthy recipient of
this description than one Brian Taylor, director of UCLA's Institute of Transportation
Studies. Oh, and Brian has company. I also include Anthony Downs, a senior fellow at the
Brookings Institution, and Martin Wachs, director of the Institute of Transportation
Studies at UC Berkeley.
Yes, all are afflicted with my fanciful, M.C.
Esher-esque version of "hindsight."
Ladies and gentlemen, they celebrate---that's
right, celebrate---traffic congestion.
(Please take a moment to join me in gasping, or
indulging more visceral bodily acts.)
"Congestion is a sign that a lot of good
things are happening," said Taylor, in a well-written L.A. Times article by Caitlin
Liu (7/31.) Taylor is a sign that a lot of bad things are happening in academia.
"Congestion is inevitable. Get
used to it," said Downs, in the same article. Good thing Downs is not a rape
Wachs travels about, delivering a speech to
transportation professionals entitled, "Learning to Love Congestion." My guess
is that he sleeps in an iron maiden.
Look, there's a scene in Albert Brooks' movie,
"Defending Your Life," in which Brooks goes to heaven and finds Rip Torn as his
guide. As they eat breakfast, Torn explains that in heaven, you can shovel down eggs,
waffles, pancakes endlessly and never get full or gain weight! Brooks ecstatically chows
away, until he abruptly notices Torn's chosen fare: an unidentifiable, but suspiciously
familiar vile brown gooey matter.
When one has had eggs, waffles,
and pancakes for so long, Torn offers, one develops um, arcane taste.
I say that Taylor, Downs, and Wachs are dining
daily on Torn cuisine. They have deceived themselves into thinking that the vile brown goo
of gridlock is ambrosia.
Here is their general rationale:
Traffic tie-ups, these weighty academes opine,
indicate that citizens are engaged in activities of economic and social value.
Bumper-to-bumper means that humanity is bright-eyed and bushy-tailed---enthusiastically,
busily, concertedly participating in society's myriad of wonders! And said participants
should therefore---my fingers are trying to stop me from typing this---enjoy being
paralyzed on the Pomona Freeway.
Liu's article summarizes:
"A stressed-out motorist should take
a deep breath, pop in a favorite CD and learn to tolerate - even appreciate - what sitting
in traffic means."
Shades of "Dr. Strangelove, or How I
Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb"! Sitting in traffic is not as bad as
ingesting radioactive fallout, but it's really the next best thing, isn't it? I'll tell
you what sitting in traffic means: it means that fifty years' worth of city,
county, state, and federal public servants have never managed to do the baboon-butt
obvious task of installing a comprehensive light-rail train system in Southern California.
It means that people have spent huge chunks of
their lives---their fleshly time on planet Earth---cultivating stress, and ensuing
diseases, while stopped dead on a freeway, staring dully at one of those
multi-million-dollar "Freeway Condition" signs that says, "SLOWING
It means that the $300-million-per mile
Red Line Subway---which does nothing to alleviate traffic on the Hollywood
freeway (101 to aliens) or cut into Valley/L.A. commuting---is the greatest transit
boondoggle to befall L.A. since the conspiratorial demise of the lyrical, far-reaching
Pacific Electric "Red Cars." That $300-million-per-mile could have gone a long
way toward laying light rail where it is badly needed: downtown to the Valley, downtown to
the West Side, downtown to the San Gabriel Valley.
Never mind, say Taylor, Downs, and
What a scam these jokers have going for
themselves: getting paid to tell "transportation professionals" that gridlock is
grand. Zounds! Maybe I could rake it in by lecturing to B'nai Brith about the beauty of
anti-Semitism! Tell "health care professionals" to appreciate muscular
dystrophy! Sing the praises of vocal cord polyps to opera stars!
Gadzooks, ladies and gentlemen, gadzooks.
Why do I even take this seriously, you
snicker? Rense Taken for Ride by Traffic Provacateurs? Here's why: the Times article was
on page one of the whole newspaper. Inadvisable and incredible as it seems, a lot of
people take page one of the Times very seriously.
Nonsense, you say? No sane person will buy into
"gridlock is good?" Hey, how many sane people do you know? Think back to the
late '70s, when oodles of New Yorkers somehow figured out that snow does not fall in Los
Angeles, and came west like prison escapees. I subsequently read/heard many a precious
essay by many a precious Big Apple expat essayist (anagram of "yet is ass")
rhapsodizing about "having epiphanies at 5 mph on the 405." (God forbid anyone
call freeways by their Christian names anymore.) Yes, epiphanies! These preening egotists
imagined that they became suntanned sophisticates, you see, by trading the
"street cred" of subways and boroughs for the "street cred" of sitting
on dead streets.
Street cred? Street crud.
Need stats? The Texas Transportation
Institute says that the 75 largest metropolitan areas of the United States lost
$67.5 billion in 2000 to bad traffic, according to the Times article. The Southern
California Assn. of Governments claims $6 billion was drained by traffic jams in
2002---from lost productivity, higher health-related expenses and congestion-related
Hey, $6 billion is enough to pay for the Iraq
madness for an entire month!
Taylor, Downs, and Wachs, you need to be fired
promptly. Any grant money you are receiving from the federal government needs to be
detoured. You have as much business calling yourselves transportation experts as Charles
Manson has calling himself a humanitarian. You are failure-in-transportation experts.
Coagulation Cogitators. Constipation Conspirators. You need to drive a taxi or a bus in
L.A. for a living. You need to understand that finding the Santa Monica or San Diego
Freeway stopped DEAD at midnight, or at three in the afternoon on a Tuesday, or most any
summer day when the city is infested with fat white people with big red lips and ugly
short pants, that this is not just "congestion." This is a serviceable model for
Tell you what, Transit Troglodytes---if
you really, truly enjoy having your life stolen from you by "urban planners" who
could not manage to build a simple light-rail system paralleling freeways around
town---then I hereby invoke George Sanders' immortal suicide note exit line:
I leave you to your cesspool.
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