Can developers game the system with invalid traffic studies?
I attended the 6/7/18 Planning Commission meeting. During this meeting, a development plan was presented for replacing parking places in a busy commercial center located at Main and MacArthur with a gas station and a 24 hour 7-Eleven.
According to the traffic study presented for the project, the change of use for this property would add fewer than 2 trips an hour to the local traffic flow. But the traffic study made this estimate by comparing traffic from 12AM to 12PM to traffic from 12PM to 12AM! I was dumbfounded as tracking traffic in these two time frames do not reveal the difference between peak and non-peak traffic hours. The Commission members noted their concern as well.
After the commission meeting, I met with an Irvine Senior Planner who reported that peak Irvine traffic is actually from 6 AM to 6 PM. If efficient traffic circulation was truly a concern for development plans, would you not assume that they would want to track the difference between peak and non-peak traffic by comparing traffic between 6 AM and 6 PM with traffic from 6 PM and 6 AM?
In studying Irvine’s process for setting the guidelines for traffic studies, I have discovered that traffic study proposals are submitted by development project applicants and are required to be approved by Irvine’s Director of Community Development (currently Pete Carmichael) with the city council reserving the right to approve the study.
It appears the checks and balances of the system are not working as approved traffic studies can be misleading and may not address the actual effect the developments will have on Irvine traffic circulation.