Not so merry-go-round

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Designing roadways for living instead of driving

By John Pawlak

Razor blades are safe.  They are safe to safely use and their safe safety has been proven safe for safe use.  Safety people are safely using safety razor safety blades safely.  
With safe safety razors, we can safely enjoy safe productive safe lives safe safe safe safe.
Wow. Razor blades really must be safe! Welcome to Marketing 501.  
A common technique used in presentations; repetitive repetitive repetitive reinforcement to drive drive drive into your skull the belief that something is true.  Say it enough times and it must be true.  
And so it was with the presentation given by the California-based consulting firm at the county council meeting April 7.  
By my count (and I’m sure I missed quite a few), they used the S-word 21 times.
A few people seemed easily impressed with colorful graphics and five-syllable words with these “highly qualified traffic engineering and planning” consultants.  But many walked away with a different opinion.
A particularly interesting aspect of the presentation was the emphasis on landscaping.  
There were so many pretty trees and shrubs in the presentation that I had to wonder if they were selling traffic management solutions or landscaping designs.  
And so I waded through their corporate website, reading project proposals and marketing rhetoric.  
One thing for sure, these guys are definitely experts at corporate speak.  Here’s a quick sampling (verbatim):
Quality of life.   Unified Vision and Strategy.   Multi-Objective Planning.  Visioning Teams.  Socio-Economic Overview.  Catalytic Site Analysis. Requisite Strategies.  Environmental Stewardship.   Comprehensive Engagement.   Institutional Potential.  Balanced Critical Thinking.
Wow, I am so definitely impressed.  True masters of corporate word salad!  And clearly, our council was also impressed.  
Nothing says “I’m an expert — pay me lots of money” better than five or six adjectives before every noun.  Yes, that’s a ubiquitous customer-centric solution-oriented synergistic value-added circumlocutory fact!
Their website is quite telling.  They have extensive experience in planning and designing children’s environments, implementing ecological and natural resource strategies, architecting balanced landscape designs, developing creative communication strategy programs, designing branding and identity packages for marketing campaigns, developing park and recreation programs and services, and preparing inter-disciplinary environmental impact reports.
 Oh yeah, and they’re really good at planting trees and drawing circles.  Not an awful lot about traffic management, certainly not what one would expect given the number of companies out there who do nothing but traffic management and planning.  
Did anyone bother to comparison shop?
Anyway, back to the meeting.  After peroxiding the buzz-wax from my ears, I took a closer look at the SIDRA Intersection 5.1 software (used by the consultants to assess our “unique needs”).  They took great pains to impress how whizbang neato this software is.   
Of course, it would have been more impressive if they were using the SIDRA XZ77GTX Crossfire TrafficBlaster ProDeluxe software with the upgraded turbocharged Barracuda OOT Extensibility Package.
Go to the SIDRA homepage and the first thing you see is - OK, first let’s have a nice 10 second drum roll) ... a roundabout!  Now that’s a roundabout way of telling you what they’re selling.  
On the overview page (a single page on the website), the word ‘roundabout’ appears 69 times.
The PC-based Windows 7 software even boasts complete integration with the HCM roundabout capacity modeling procedures.  Round and round and round she goes.  Where our tax dollars end up, the council only knows.
Perhaps the most revealing facet of the consultants’ “expertise” comes from their own marketing propaganda.  
To quote — in their pursuit for inclusive design for the public realm, they incorporate a multi-disciplinary collaboration to explore the future of streets and what America’s roadways would be like if they were designed for living, instead of driving.
“Roadways designed for living instead of driving.”  Yes indeed, their own words perfectly sum up what I saw they had to offer.
Who would have thought that with all the Ph.D.s in Los Alamos that we would have to hire a few California flower children to guide us to the promised land of a sociobalanced prototypical cohesive vehicular arterial corridor?  You know, a carousel-lined street with trees planted alongside?
 John Pawlak
Los Alamos columnist