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Readers’ Letters Create a Traffic Snarl of Own

Jan Hofmann is a regular contributor to Orange County Life.

Traffic is getting kind of jammed up in the Life on Wheels mailbox, with letters headed in all directions.

After reading our feature in January on drivers who have successful long-term relationships with their cars, Mrs. C.A. LaJoie of Anaheim wrote to tell us about her 1965 Chrysler New Yorker, which she has owned for nearly 25 years.

But her letter took a tone slightly different from those of satisfied customers who had written earlier.

“I know you are not in the selling market,” she said, “but I thought you might be able to help me. . . . If you know anyone who would be interested in buying my car, I would appreciate any help you could give me.”

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The car is in excellent shape, she said, with nearly new tires and just 85,698 miles on it, so we can only speculate as to why she is interested in parting company with it after all those years. My guess is that she just can’t figure out what to buy it for the big anniversary. Silver hubcaps, maybe?

In any case, Life on Wheels is not in the used car business.

Speaking of oldies but goodies, Ronald Fields of Orange wrote to tell about his 1940 Willys Woody, which he said is the only known survivor of the five 1940 Woodies manufactured by the Willys Overland Motor Co.

Two entrepreneurial readers have decided that as long as they had to be stuck in traffic, they might as well look for a way to cash in. Andrea Brown of Anaheim has started a company called Gridlox, selling “Gridder Critter” T-shirts, commuter mugs and bumper stickers that proclaim such sentiments as “I H8 Gridlock.”

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“There is so much discussion,” she said, “about funding, traffic laws, expansions, double-decking, building new roads, etc., but my concern is the stress that the commuter faces each day. A promise of a new freeway 2 to 4 years down the road isn’t going to help Joe Commuter today. Assist Joe with some understanding and humor.”

Tony Gentry of Sunset Beach took a more serious approach. He is putting together “Traffic ’89,” a “comprehensive yet simple booklet” providing varied “alternatives, opportunities, incentives and benefits concerning efforts to reduce traffic congestion.”

Each of the $2 booklet’s 25 pages--sponsored by area businesses at $1,000 a pop--is to have a coupon good for something “of great personal benefit to the user, the sponsor and to traffic flow.”

Gentry does not specify what that may be, but I for one would be willing to pay much more than $2 for a product that would do all that.

How about a coupon that “entitles the bearer to travel the Costa Mesa Freeway at a speed in excess of 30 m.p.h. at 4:30 p.m. on any Friday”? If only Gentry could figure out a way to make that redeemable!

Frank A. Anderson of Irvine writes to suggest, “Why don’t you ask how many people have checked the DMV computer for their driving record? Call to DMV, 25-cent stamp, $1 and 4 weeks. Mine just came back, ‘Nothing to report.’ ”

I suppose mine would too, unless the DMV knows me well enough to have noted, “Tends to jostle impatiently from lane to lane when in a hurry, and she’s always in a hurry.” OK, Frank, I’ll try it and report back.

After reading my Feb. 2 column on the frustrations of being an auto accident victim, Marian Futterman of West Hollywood wrote to suggest that it may be better to “take the case into your own hands (and) deal directly with the insurance companies or malicious opposing attorney. This way at least you get the extra 40%.”

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Traffic solutions are still trickling in, although the deadline for the Orange County Transportation Commission’s 100 Traffic Solutions project has long since passed.

From Carol Chapman of Corona del Mar: “My sister-in-law tells me that in Northern California, during non-commuting hours, all cars are allowed to use the commuter lane. Seems like a good idea to me.”

Robert S. of Fullerton (“I don’t particularly want to get my name in the paper”) sent in a thoughtful, two-page letter on the pros and cons of double-decking freeways, something that other readers had endorsed earlier.

He said two places in the region “cry out for double-decking”: the Santa Ana Freeway through central Santa Ana and the Hollywood Freeway through downtown L.A.

Although he believes in the idea, Robert conceded that “double-decking will just not sell in Southern California.” One reason, he said: “Convertibles seem to be on their way back again. It might be that Southern Californians just do not like to drive with anything over their heads.

“There is one other point about two-level freeways that has never been brought up, as far as I can tell,” Robert said. “It is usually assumed that with two levels, each level will have traffic going in just one direction. . . . However, one of the main hazards in freeway travel is lane changes, and it is my strong impression that doubling the number of lanes more than doubles the hazards.”

Instead, Robert suggested that both levels should be two-way, with through traffic on top and local traffic on the bottom.

Louise M. Chinnock of Garden Grove said other readers who sent in traffic solutions gave her the courage to offer an idea she has had for 15 years: an automated conveyor belt with computerized lane-switching capability.

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On surface streets, cars would be driven normally, but on the freeway they would be shifted automatically into neutral and attached to the conveyor belt. A computer would control lane changes and ensure that each car is released at the proper exit.

With this system--Chinnock calls it “the fast track"--drivers could spend their freeway time “reading the newspaper, using the telephone, eating a snack or listening to a favorite tape and singing along.” (Of course, many drivers do all those things already.)

Finally, several readers wanted to continue the debate about window tinting, sending in copies of case law and their own correspondence with the California Highway Patrol. But Geof Spehar, a tint dealer, took the most extreme position.

“I believe California should make (tinting) mandatory on all windows,” he said, “except the windshield on all cars fitted with air conditioners, since the load on the air conditioner is reduced, thereby making the engine work less, using less gas and causing LESS SMOG!”

Spehar may be interested in minimizing hot air, but we’ll take all we can get. Keep those cards and letters coming in.


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