By Michael McLaughlin
Don’t it always seem to go
That you don’t know what you’ve got
‘Til it’s gone
They paved paradise
Put up a parking lot
The biggest threat to our little fishing village way of life is not the cartels, break-ins or plagues. It is the automobile. Now, the bad news—and don’t kill the messenger—there is nothing we can do to stop this. AND, don’t hate me for saying this, but all the Mexicans Lakeside cannot have cars and all the expats cannot have two or three cars. Can you imagine a Lakeside with 5,000 more cars on a daily basis? You can? No, you think you can.
Cars are choking the good life out of Ajijic. On any given day traffic is backed up . . . well, I don’t need to tell you. Just try finding a parking space in the village at 11 a.m. in high season, or on weekends when the tapatios roll in from Guadalajara.
What can be done to mitigate our traffic problem? Nothing, but let’s put on our civil engineering thinking caps and look at the discounted solutions to all this traffic:
Let’s build a causeway out over the lake around the city? This proposal is—how do they say?—DOA, and we all know why. No one wants to look across the lake and see a concrete causeway.
Let’s build a tunnel under the existing road. One word on that idea: WATER.
Let’s build a bypass above the city in the mountains. That won’t work either because of land issues and the NIMBY (not in my backyard) of the people living up there. And, NO, you cannot use existing streets that wind through the neighborhoods unless you can condemn houses and widen the existing streets.
Let’s just widen the road through town and make it into a four-lane road? Again, you would have to use Mexican “eminent domain” to bulldoze through town. It would take money, as in BIG money to build a wider road through town, or around town, or above town, or underneath town.
How about a light rail system from Chapala to Jocotepec? That concept is way too progressive for Mexico.
How about these solutions:
Alternate days of driving depending on your license plate? This is similar to what Mexico City does. Understand, the business interests run the town and will not go for ANY PROPOSAL that limits the amount of people coming into Ajijic. They want wall-to-wall customers. The realtors will moan that their agents won’t be able to drive their cars every day and it will hurt business. (The real estate business is the largest employer of expats and another powerful force in town.) The sick people here—we have many—will ask for an exemption because they have to drive their spouse to the doctors and if they can’t drive, the person will die. The handicapped will say they cannot walk far and their car is their only way to an independent life and they can’t afford taxis. The Mexicans who are involved in construction trades (one of the biggest Mexican employers) need their trucks for their business every day and will either get an exemption or just ignore the law.
How about we limit norte americanos to one car? Make me laugh. Again some of these people who own two cars will use their “old people’s card” to nix that idea.
What about parking?!
One thing we can do, and it is only a symbol, is to eliminate the quaint Mexican custom of putting out chairs or buckets next to the curbs to “save” parking spaces. That really doesn’t do much but it is a symbol. Also, we could increase parking space in Ajijic by towing away “memorial” vehicles that have flat tires and a heavy coat of dust and have not been moved this century.
We could put parking meters on Ajijic streets. Right. Make me laugh.
The Chapala government could impose a tax on households with more than one car. Think that will work? No, Señor.
Prediction: As the traffic continues to multiply, the only feeble attempt will be traffic cops in the streets, especially on weekends, to move traffic through town. I predict (not hard to do) one day there will be traffic gridlock and a lineup of cars from the libramiento to Colon to the west and bumper-to-bumper traffic from Colon to the fish restaurants in San Juan Cosala. What? There is already?
So, we are back to the inevitable. The car traffic will increase and increase and especially on weekends until we reach traffic carmageddon. It is coming and there is not a thing you can do to stop it.
All suggestions for a realistic solution can be mailed to this publication. The answer is out there someplace, probably stuck in traffic.
For more information about Lake Chapala visit: www.chapala.com