Sunday, May 5, 2013

Cinco De Mayo weekend - San Jose's buracracy at its worst

Today is Cinco De Mayo, I wonder what does Cinco De Mayo means to you aside from its May 5 in its direct official translation. 

While it officially defined as the day Mexican Indiginous and Spanish colonists stopped French from invading North America. It was known as the battle of Puabla in which the Mexicans defeated the French army from invading Mexico. It was also taught that the French ultimately were wanting to join forces with the Confederate states to defeat and takeover the Union states up north.  Though in San Jose it means a week of nightmare spontaneous rowdiness in which the police do little about except setup numerous barricades throughout the city and preventing residents from going home. There had been reports that residents had to drive two hours out of their way in extreme congestion just to return to their home a few miles away due to the barricades or even spend a night parked in their cars. Not only are drivers blocked sometimes the police even block pedestrians from heading where they needed to go. Those using transit are also left stranded due to girdlock and reroutes which they might be prevented from getting to buses or trains. While in recent years the city claimed that residents can show proof of residency that they are just trying to return home it has been controversial whether the police would honor it as some residents claimed that they had to confront police drawing guns on them also would residents trying to get home in a whole different neighborhood but requires going through the roads to get there. Would police honor their requests? As how would the police know they are legitimately returning home not to go through and vandalize or meet up with their gang partners. The issue also affects residents just traveling through the city on the Freeways as they some times close down and force entire freeway traffic to detour off in a particular ramp and blocking off other ramps in order to prevent more traffic fr.

I live in the Evergreen area. While my neighborhood is generally east of much of the celebration commotion it is a potential nightmare if have to travel anywhere west of Capital Expressway on the first week of May.  Unlike commute or event traffic its never known where or when a Cinco De Mayo gridlock would occur and whether its possible to steer away from it it is not just the unreasonable revelers causing the jam but the police department which might mandate everyone go the route they want you to go with no way of turning around or to a less congested route. I remember a year when took nearly two hours to get home from church on a Sunday afternoon as well as one year when my sister trying to get home from Daly City when the freeway got shut down without notice. They claim they are do it to try to keep more troublemakers and vandals from gathering in troublespots but there must be better ways. Its very unpredictable its impossible to plan ahead to avoid problems. It would not be enough excuse for us to cancel appointments or church or any other activities that require going anywhere we could barely make aware of the situation until we get caught in it. The city always claim the same excuses over and over year after year. Even though it had plenty of opportunities to improve it relationship with its residents over the issues. The residents had complained for years. The city claims they could not know whether they should close down a street or freeway ahead of time but for many years they should had known potential trouble spots that had been subject to emergency road closure and alert residents and visitors ahead of time.

Each year the city comes up with many excuses about why they do what they do without noticing the residents ahead of time. They claim that they cannot predict what the crowd would do and they have to decide in a whelm to force traffic go in certain directions to control the flow of troublemakers. However since this as happened repeatedly for nearly a decade I am surprised that the city won't learn from its past lessons. For example there is no reason Caltrans and CHP cannot turn on electronic signs ahead of time as they already know historic recurring troublespots and have caltrans ready to adjust the signs to reflect current traffic conditions delay times exit and road/freeway closures/blockages, and be ready to issue a sigalert if a freeway becomes blocked. Traffic reporters are also either lazy or tightlipped on Cinco De Mayo as well compared to normal sudden emergency traffic jams until well after the jam had formed. Worst of all they continue to schedule the Sharks game at Cinco De Mayo weekend while its pretty obvious that large sporting events certain to fuel rowdyness which combined with large crowds and drinking during Cinco De Mayo weekend is bound to bring Mayhem. Other large cities in the country such as New York City and Chicago and around the world can deal with this kind of situation without taking such measures which essentially locks the city down for its residents. San Jose should really take a look at other cities with large Cinco De Mayo activites such as Los Angeles, Denver, as well as Puabla De Los Angeles in Mexico for handing revelers.

What San Jose could and should do to control chaos without declaring war on its innocent residents,

-Schedule the San Jose Sharks Game in another weekend
-Partner with Caltrans and CHP to program electronic signs to calculate commute times throughout the weekend as they usually do and to provide the most updated information on traffic congestion as well as road, freeway, interchange, and ramp closures or blockages. 
-Have Caltrans ready to issue a sigalert if situations require
-Partner with transit/traffic 511 as well as other traffic and news sources to alert potential trouble spots
-Find a way to alert residents by reverse phone calls, texts, or otherwise if violence erupts enough to warrant traffic quarantine.
-Have signs and and media communication to advise drivers traveling down 101 or 280 to travel on 85 when exit ramp shutdowns or traffic control measures are in effect
-Designate official "cruising" parade routes that are well supervised with designated waiting lines to get in that would not tie up traffic for others.

With some twicks San Jose can better its relationship with residents and visitors well maintaining a level of safety and keeping rowdyness in control.

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