Why does Los Angeles have such Bad Traffic?
From podcasts that take place in traffic to cartoons about the Hollywood sign covered in smog, a Doctor Who episode where one’s lifetime takes place IN traffic, and SNL sketches where the script is around which route is the best to take during different hours, Los Angeles traffic and congestion has become synonymous with Hollywood.
What issues are LA drivers currently dealing with?
Studies show that drivers in LA spend over 102 hours in traffic during peak times, more than anywhere in the world. If you read our last blog post, you remember that America was deemed the “car capital of the world. That may be, but with Los Angeles’ 84% commuting population, they’re a “driving city” with more of the population driving than other major cities. This is because there are too few public transit options. Even where public transit is offered, the travel times are so much higher that people still opt to drive themselves. Plus, LA is huge—spreading over 4060 sq mi a decade ago for approximately 10 million people, versus New York City’s 8.5 million population in 300 square miles—suggesting that NYC is much more walkable and accessible.
What are three things that could help them improve?
The Biden administration suggested not just widening highways to improve congestion. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg says that traffic, transit options, and fixing existing problems should be the focus before widening or expanding existing highways
. Thanks to the Infrastructure bill, LA plans to execute some of these ideas with the funding they’ll receive. However, Building additional transit will not improve congestion, so what about “congestion pricing?” The idea is to add priced tolls to control speed and traffic flow, decreasing the amount of traffic on highly congested roadways. Third, creating more effective public transit where the population is motivated to opt for it, overtaking personal vehicles.
Los Angeles is already notoriously expensive, with one of the highest living costs in the United States. The additional cost of a toll could beat out the gas usage of sitting in traffic, or it could be an equivalent cost. Regardless, it’s hard to imagine anyone accepting news of a consistent expense and accepting it willingly (in this economy?). Another obstacle is that if highways are created to provide new/more roadways, there is no guarantee that this will improve traffic or congestion. This is called “induced travel,” where travel time decreases initially, attracting more drivers and lowering driving costs. But once more drivers are attracted to the new highway, slowly traffic starts to increase.
Only time will tell if LA and the infrastructure bill will implement positive changes to promote a more efficient highway and interstate system. Whatever they do, we’ll be here, making the signs that guide your way!
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