Ventura’s grown by leaps and bounds since the post-war housing boom of nearly seventy years ago, and most of that was a steady march east. Telegraph, Loma Vista, and Foothill have all been how Venturans get around town. But other than the minor improvements to Loma Vista at the college, and the recent widening and new signal on Telegraph near Mills, these three key routes have been neglected by the city.
We have weeds growing in the potholes on Loma Vista. New homes are being built along Foothill, with their driveways opening onto a street where people drive 75 miles an hour along a narrow and twisty road. We have an outdated intersection at Day & Telegraph, an intersection that must be updated to accommodate college traffic, Foothill HS traffic, Starbucks traffic, and the forthcoming Tides apartments.
At a College Area Community Council meeting, I challenged city staff over the condition of Loma Vista, and asked why improvements weren’t being planned. That was 18 months ago, and while staff said they’d follow up, we’re still waiting.
I met with city staff three years ago to discuss the intersection at Day & Telegraph. Not only are improvements long overdue, but in 2016, that outdated intersection was specifically cited as a reason to stop The Tides project from going forward. That’s how neighborhoods slide into blight. It’s also why projects like The Tides have taken years and years to move forward, why some good projects never even break ground.
A key step to improving College Area traffic is keeping College Area infrastructure up-to-date. The city is beginning to update traffic signals so that they’ll all be networked together. That’s a worthy investment, but it’ll take years. We need to look at places where perhaps a left-turn pocket should be extended, or where U-turns should be allowed, where perennial potholes slow or startle drivers, or where visibility issues make it tricky to make a simple right turn.
The city should collect data on traffic patterns, publish it regularly, and Capital Improvement projects should be based on what the traffic studies show. I sat down with city staff in 2018 to discuss this, and was told Public Works was moving towards this model. In the meanwhile, the department had just purchased three portable radar speed signs, which collect not only traffic speed but volume as well, and the plan was to move them around and collect data. A few months later, that department director left for another city. Since then, there has been no discussion of ongoing traffic studies, and those portable radar speed signs haven’t been moved around, and I’ve heard nothing about any data they might have collected.
We need regular reports on city-wide traffic volumes, speeds, wait times at intersections, and use of alternative forms of transportation. (We have collision data, and while it’s not brought to Council, it’s publicly available.) I’d like to see a requirement for this in the General Plan, perhaps in a four year cycle: one year, a report on volume; the next year, a report on speeds; the third year, a report on intersections; the fourth year, a report on trends in mass transit, bicycles, shared mobility and so on.
We need to ensure any development’s impacts on traffic are carefully modeled, closely examined and mitigated. With recent data as a baseline, staff could model how a proposed development might impact traffic. Not all impacts will be negative: the nearer people live to the services they require, the less they’ll need to drive. So much of the traffic through the College Area is starting on one end of town and ending at the other. We should welcome developments that will improve traffic across the city.
Residential development is not going to stop. We are going to build more housing in Ventura. If the state weren’t making it mandatory, market forces would make it inevitable. We all recognize that our aging roads are not ready for an increase in auto traffic. The city must enable and encourage other forms of transportation by adopting a rigorous Active Mobility Plan.
As we spend the next three or four years adopting a new General Plan, one of the many components will be a Transportation Plan. It has to be more than just lip-service or wishful thinking about bus ridership. The city does not operate the Gold Coast bus lines, or the VCTC bus lines. Absent any specific means of expanding local bus service, the city must assume that it will stay as it is. With so many bus routes down Telegraph, this is potentially a controversial issue in District 3. It’s not enough to build new housing near bus stops and trust that the new residents will choose to ride a bus rather than own a car.
We must develop an Active Mobility Plan that goes beyond cars and city buses, and considers bicycles, pedestrians, paratransit, school buses, electric bikes & scooters (both personal and shared), shared ride services such as Uber and Lyft, and self-driving cars. If, instead, our planning focuses on personal cars, then that’s what we’ll get: cars, and traffic, and parking troubles.