Our government serves a purpose. It’s not the one you’re thinking of, either.
Sure, there is national defense and public education and police and firefighting and zoning laws and the ever-so-important regulation of things like hair salons and, I don’t know, the zoo.
But those things are abstract. The one thing the government does that affects all of us every day is manage traffic.
Government types build the roads, and they decide where to put the stop lights, and they ponder widening or repaving, all of which can make or break our daily commute.
Which makes it really easy to complain when stuff breaks. The dang government can’t do anything right.
But. That government is just a bunch of people. Some of them are incompetent, sure. But most of them are just regular folks doing a job.
And so, today’s lesson is thus: It is one thing to rant and rave at the stupid things that don’t work, but it is quite another to get off your butt and rant to someone who can do something about it.
We’ll ease into it with a question from Larry, which has an easy answer that took awhile to get.
Larry wrote in about a month ago noting that when you’re driving south on El Capitan and you cross over Durango Drive, the road becomes Farm Road. There, it quickly goes from two lanes heading southbound to one lane. There used to be lines and such, but they appear to have faded away.
Because people are basically animals, they treat the lack of lines on the road as de facto permission to do whatever the heck they want.
I brought this mess to the attention of officials with the city of Las Vegas. They said they would take a look. A couple weeks went by. Any progress? They were still looking at it. Another week went by. Any progress?
Oh, city spokeswoman Diana Paul said, oopsy! Turns out, that’s the jurisdiction of the Nevada Department of Transportation. Sorry!
That didn’t make any sense, but hey, neither does Nancy Grace, and she’s got her own TV show. So anyway, I checked with NDOT, and they said they’d check it out.
Which is when Paul sent another oopsy email.
“My apologies,” she wrote. “This is in fact the city’s right of way, and we will be issuing a work order to add some signs and markings to improve the situation.”
So there you go, Larry. If it’s not fixed by the time this column gets printed, it should be soon after.
All it took was a little complaining to the right people. And then complaining again. And again.
Which brings me to my own backyard. Almost literally.
Out at Ann Road and the Las Vegas Beltway, which I drive through a couple times a day, there are all the ingredients for a big, ugly traffic mess.
You’ve got Ann Road. You’ve got the Beltway. You’ve got a traffic light on what is essentially a freeway. You’ve got one tiny road, Shaumber Road, just west of that intersection, leading to a massive housing area called Providence. Shaumber is pretty much the only decent way in and out.
Until about a year ago, this worked, mostly. But then the Clark County School District opened up a bus yard just south of the intersection.
The buses all roll out at the same time in the morning. The only road they can use is Ann, just like everyone else. This causes all kinds of traffic jams.
Most everyone coming from Shaumber onto Ann wants to turn right onto the Beltway. But there’s no right turn lane. So, if even one car doesn’t want to turn, the rest of them back up. And back up. And back up.
And then the light at Ann and the Beltway stopped working a couple of weeks ago. Sometimes, it didn’t turn green for a whole cycle or two.
I ranted and raved, of course, as I sat in traffic backed up several hundred feet onto Shaumber. But the guy in the car next to me? The one who saw me ranting and raving? He couldn’t fix the problem.
So I took my complaint to the people who could.
I started with the city of Las Vegas, because that part of Ann Road is in the city. That didn’t work, because Clark County controls that intersection.
So I checked with Dan Kulin, a county spokesman. He said they went out there last week and took a look after they got my complaint (which wasn’t the only one, by the way). They adjusted the timing of the light so it stays green longer for the people heading east on Ann. That helped a lot.
He said they are going to be adding a paved right turn lane there, too, within the next few weeks. That should fix just about everything (until they tear it up at some undetermined future point, of course, so they can make it a real freeway).
Take this to heart, folks: Complaining works, if you complain to the right people.
If you see something broken, take your complaint to your elected officials. Or, just email it here. I’ll see if I can figure out who’s responsible.
Got a transportation question, comment or gripe? Ship it off to firstname.lastname@example.org. Or tweet to @RJroadwarrior.