Traffic control program extended

Downtown traffic in the summer can be a nightmare, but the times before and after festivals season aren't always a cakewalk, particularly on a sunny weekend.

The City Council voted at the Aug. 20 meeting to use a team of seven part-time employees to keep traffic moving on congested downtown streets from April through Sept. 30, with four of them ready to spring into action if needed from October to March 30.

"This isn't about cars," said Councilman Steven Dicterow. "It's about clumping pedestrians so they don't tie up traffic by crossing one a time."

For the past few years, the team has worked primarily in the daytime from late June to the first week in September, along Forest Avenue at the intersections with Glenneyre, Beach and Third streets.

Last year, the council approved funds for on-call employment in the off-season. But that didn't work. Team members were not always available at the last minute.

Alternatives were considered.

The department contacted Anaheim, which has a large traffic control unit, for a possible loan of personnel on short notice. The city declined.

Traffic control companies were contacted, but those businesses mostly supply staff at construction sites to hold up "stop" or "slow" signs and were not interested. Crossing guard companies also declined, claiming the city's needs exceeded what they were willing to do.

All three alternatives were almost twice as expensive as the current $11 an hour paid the team members, according to a staff report.

That left the department with two choices: Keep the seven part-time team members employed from April through September and four of them from September through March, or disband the program in the cooler months for a savings of $12,000.

The vote was unanimous in favor of year-round service.

"Cars sitting and idling is not our goal," said Councilwoman Toni Iseman, who originally lobbied for traffic control on Forest Avenue as well as at other congested areas.

"Sometimes, I want to get out of my car and hug those guys. We are getting our money's worth."

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