All Right Turns Are Equal. But Some Right Turns Are More Equal Than Others.

My commute to and from downtown Los Angeles is really not bad. I tend to come in early, so I zip through Echo Park before the school traffic clogs it up. Driving home's not bad, either, except when the Dodgers are playing and I time the drive wrong. There are choke-points in any route; I attribute them to urban living and accept them and use the time to listen to the news or music.

There's one exception.

When I leave work, I tend to turn left onto Grand Avenue up on Bunker Hill and drive to the Harbor Freeway — a half-dozen blocks featuring the Disney Concert Hall, the Museum of Contemporary Art, the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, the Cathedral, and the courthouse where I often litigate. It's a major thoroughfare, leading from the heart of downtown to two of the area's busiest freeways.

Yet there's only one choke-point on this stretch of road.

See, there's an underground parking garage for the employees of the group of Los Angeles County offices that inhabit the block bordered by Grand, Temple, 1st, and Hill. The entrance and exit for that parking garage is on the northbound side of Grand.

GrandEntrance

More often than not, if I drive home during rush hour, there's a choke-point there. There's a choke-point because a Los Angeles County Sheriff's deputy has parked his car in the right-hand lane of Grand Avenue, set out cones, and run a traffic break blocking one of the two northbound lanes of a busy street leading to the freeway, all just before that exit from the parking garage.

That gives the people leaving the parking garage a nice protected right turn onto Grand, so they don't have to wait for a break in traffic to merge.

Often I see the Sheriff's deputy — sometimes two — standing around, leaning against the cruiser, drinking coffee, waving to people as they exit underground parking.

Now, maybe there is science behind this. Maybe someone did a study, and found that the merging traffic from that parking garage slows down traffic on Grand so much that the best and most efficient way to handle it is to block off a lane during rush hour.

Yet I've driven around Los Angeles a lot, and seen a lot of traffic choke-points, and exited a lot of parking garages into heavy traffic. I haven't seen the Sheriff blocking a lane like that anywhere else, except occasionally at large entertainment venues like Dodger Stadium or the Staples Center after the game or the Hollywood Bowl after a concert.

Could it have something to do with the fact that County Supervisors and County Counsel and the County's Chief Administrative Office and judges and senior court staff and the County Civil Service Commission all have parking in that garage? Is that why law enforcement resources are being used to improve the commute of a few drivers, at the expense of others?

People say to me, "you're a libertarian? That means you don't trust government, right?"

Right.

Yes, this is a rerun, or reboot, or whatever you want to call it.

Last 5 posts by Ken White

Comments

  1. Me says

    I'm L.A.-based also. You're right. You don't see them blocking lanes elsewhere to make life easier on some buildings occupants. Pretty scummy.

  2. John says

    This happens in Houston all the time, especially for churches on Sundays, mega-churches on Wednesday, and a select few business centers. And it sucks. Guessing the groups getting protection are paying the cops overtime or something, although if they're off the clock they shouldn't be able to direct traffic and impact my driving rights.

  3. Chuck says

    But how will we convince Zev Yaroslavsky to drive all the way from the west side unless he gets an easy right turn? Have to give people incentives to work for the government!

  4. Frank says

    I can concur with this artificial choke-point around strange places.

    When I first got out of the military, I wasn't sure if I wanted to continue on in the IT field, which I had been doing in the military. So I took a year-long break from IT. During that time I rode motorcycles doing motorcycle escorts for funerals and VIPs. Here in Arizona, private companies can do that and even get red and blue lights with sirens to do it with. We can stop traffic and what-not and get to disr4egard red lights just like a "real" police officer.

    Anyhow, one of our job functions was "traffic control" for some of the churches in the area. So on Sundays we would have to go stop traffic so that the cars could get out of church and go on their merry way.

    As an interesting side note, as a part of that traffic control gig, we were also armed. Armed at a church? The hell you say. Well, unfortunately for one of the particular churches, they had two halls full of people and no inside connection point, so the ushers would have to walk the collection plates across the courtyard from one building to the other. On more than one occasion, prior to us being hired, the ushers had been robbed at gun and knife point.

  5. AliceH says

    I can't help but suspect there is an idiot-and/or-a**hole factor to when and where police block lanes and direct traffic from parking garages. Namely, if they weren't there, said idiot-and/or-a**holes would assume right-of-way and inevitably and regularly smash into oncoming cars, shutting down all the lanes.

  6. Paul E. "Marbux" Merrell says

    @ John: In Oregon, off-duty cops paid by private parties have no arrest power because of interpretation of the state constitution's Article 1 § 10:

    Administration of justice. No court shall be secret, but justice shall be administered, openly and without purchase …

    Arrests by rent-a-cops are routinely invalidated in Oregon because otherwise justice would be purchased. The same or similar provision is found in many state constitutions and traces back at least to the Magna Carta of 1215 ¶ 40. ("To no one will we sell, to no one will we refuse or delay, right or justice.") (translation to modern English).

  7. says

    Just more evidence that our "public servants" don't really consider themselves our servants.

    Here is another bit. Ever notice that whenever you visit some public building the closer spots in the parking lot are reserved for the government employees who work there? You never see that at Walmart or any other private business.

  8. says

    I doubt that many non-libertarians think this is a "good thing" and would like to see more government employees and politicians abuse the power they have for personal gain. Isn't the divide between libertarianism and whatever-the-opposite-is to do with the proposed solution rather than the identification of the problem?

    I've never seen this sort of behaviour from police in north-western Europe and I've lived in a fair few countries here (The Netherlands, France, Finland, Slovakia & Austria) that certainly don't have a marginal government no matter how you look at it.

    Though to be fair I wouldn't trust the government either if I lived in the US…

  9. sorrykb says

    Roscoe wrote:

    whenever you visit some public building the closer spots in the parking lot are reserved for the government employees who work there? You never see that at Walmart or any other private business.

    I see that at private businesses all the time: Extra-special reserved spaces for the execs. (The peons still have to park elsewhere.)

  10. jaxkayaker says

    Is the rerun because of the government shutdown? I think Popehat is an essential service, and should not be furloughed.

  11. says

    Hopefully this isn't too intrusive and if so, ignore it, but what type of vehicle do you drive @Ken? Not sure why it crossed my mind, but I thought "What would happen if you found out Clark drove a low rider impala with 'Hoe Killaz' stenciled across the back? Would you think of him differently?" Then I tried to picture you in a low rider pickup truck (I know I'm making a motif of low riders, perhaps its b/c you're in california) – the pickup would just be a ruse so you could transport PONY around without anyone suspecting you were his chauffeur. Hopefully I don't get shown the door for asking.

  12. says

    whenever you visit some public building the closer spots in the parking lot are reserved for the government employees who work there? You never see that at Walmart or any other private business.

    I see that at private businesses all the time: Extra-special reserved spaces for the execs. (The peons still have to park elsewhere.)

    I see that in the employee lots, or with businesses that don't sell to the public, but most retail businesses save the best parking for their customers. At places with large lots such as shopping malls, if you know what to look for, you can often find pavement markings, signs, or other indicators that mark the portions of the lot that are far enough from the doors that employees are allowed to use them.

  13. Dion starfire says

    First of all, am I the only one so paranoid as to consider describing one's regular route to and from work incredibly foolish and slightly dangerous for somebody who's drawn the ire of a few packs of fanatics, and crazies?

    Secondly, these days, I'd describe "doesn't trust the government" as trait of cynical, well-informed, and/or intelligent people, rather than any particular party. I consider myself a democrat (though I agree with republicans on some core dem. values) and my trust of the government is limited to "they're probably not interested in me" and "most problems will usually get fixed eventually, if the public complains loudly enough and long enough". Though the second one applies mostly to society in general rather than the buerauocracy of our gov.

  14. Icekat says

    I'm not sure they're worried about congestion; it may have more to do with actual collisions. By the time they respond to the millionth fender-bender, they may decide blocking a lane is the better option. Especially if most of those employees get off work at about the same time.

  15. Dragonmum says

    My first thought was: Do they not have traffic signals with turn arrows in California? Those can be timed appropriately, thus taking the "good ol' boys" out of the equation…

    Then I remembered: Because government.

    @Roscoe – Even servants want servants of their own… "To Serve Man".

  16. Dan Weber says

    I see cops directing traffic around churches on Sundays normally. But it's because those are intersections that normally aren't very busy, except for a few times a week. It's cheaper to do that than to set up a traffic light that would normally not be used.

    Now, if the cops are totally blocking other people and giving sole priority to the church members over normal traffic, that isn't right. "Fair" also doesn't mean one car continues on the street for each car out of the lot. The goal is to empty the lot while not putting too much strain on people just commuting down the road.

  17. says

    @Icekat: I am willing to entertain the hypothesis that the people who park in that garage are more entitled and aggressive as drivers than average.

  18. Malc. says

    @Dan Weber The argument goes like this: by giving priority to the church folk, the total duration of the disruption will be reduced, and the cops can return to donut assimilation and their regular slaughter of Fido.

    As arguments go, like many, it is superficially tolerable but practically rubbish: whatever the arrangement that lead to the church getting cops to marshal their traffic, there is a relationship between the cop and the church hierarchs ("here, have a coffee while you wait for the congregation to finish godbothering!"), which results in the cops extending a "courtesy" to them that they do not extend to the faceless masses.

    Mind you, the "relationships" that really bother me are the "park anywhere, double park, no worries" thing where churchgoers get exempted from parking regulations _because they're going to church_. I'd be OK if, say, atheists could get a similar courtesy when they go for pizza or something…

  19. Chris says

    I see the same thing in Cleveland, but with a uniformed officer stopping traffic for vehicles exiting the Jones Day garage (and nowhere else downtown, including outside of government offices). I'm not sure what to make of that, but didn't come up with the conclusion that I ought not trust lawyers.

  20. stillnotking says

    >I doubt that many non-libertarians think this is a "good thing" and would like to see more government employees and politicians abuse the power they have for personal gain. Isn't the divide between libertarianism and whatever-the-opposite-is to do with the proposed solution rather than the identification of the problem?

    I think the divide is that libertarians identify this as a natural and inevitable result of state power, while liberals tend to think of it as aberrant (and correctable with even more state power).

  21. stillnotking says

    Whoops. First para above was supposed to be blockquoted. Too used to reddit formatting.

  22. CJK Fossman says

    I think the divide is that libertarians identify this as a natural and inevitable result of state power, while liberals tend to think of it as aberrant (and correctable with even more state power).

    Funny you would identify what you call liberals as the opposite of libertarians.

    Why is that?

  23. Jeremy says

    Sounds like that's some kind of power-play between county and city law enforcement. Sounds like politics between LAPD and LA Sheriff.

  24. says

    @CJK – these sorts of things tend to derail discussions quickly so I'm treading lightly, but a very large portion of self-identified 'liberals' are effectively statists. There were a lot of mainstream 'liberals' talking Libertarian back when Bush was president, but that died the second their team one. Pick your favorite community that identifies as liberal and post a comment pronouncing that you're a proud libertarian – I'm pretty sure you'll be met with tea bagger/child starving/billionaire loving insults by the time the page refreshes.

    (and lest it seem I'm cheerleading for team red here, there are a lot of 'Republicans' (darn near all I come across) that speak Libertarian rhetoric while loving the h3ll out of big govt statism. Both sides love Libertarian ideas when the other team is in office, both hate it when they have power.

  25. Daniel Taylor says

    While this is proof that we can't trust government, it's also proof that we need it.

    Imagine if everyone did crap like this?

  26. perlhaqr says

    Bill: Don't be absurd. Clark drives the "Pussy Wagon". He got a really good deal after The Bride was done with it.

  27. says

    When we had this at 1) school in CT, 2) church in OR, 3) school in CA, 4) Church in CA, we had to pay for it. About $400/day to "ameliorate traffic impact". It for damn sure wan't a courtesy.

  28. glasnost says

    Both sides love Libertarian ideas when the other team is in office, both hate it when they have power.

    The puzzling thing is why so many libertarians discover this and then just stop at this level of insight, and fail to ask the follow-up question : "What is going on here with this whole deal that leads people to like it when they're running things? Does it imply some utility to the idea of using organizations to achieve collective goals? And not just organizations, but ones with superordinate privileges to achieve things that purely voluntary ones cannot?

  29. Ebeth says

    I live in Texas. Having police stop traffic for church parking lots is just routine here. Annoying, but routine.