LA, the Most Congested City in America, Holds the Key to Less Crowded Highways

2_25_09_congestion_map.jpgINRIX, a company that provides technology to help municipalities do better traffic planning, has completed its yearly ranking of America’s most congested cities and found, for the second year in a row, that Los Angeles has the highest level of automobile congestion in the country.

On top of holding this ignominious mark for the second year in a row, L.A. isn’t home to the worst highway in the country, that award goes to the Cross Bronx Express.  However, 13 of the 50 worst 50 bottlenecks in the country are on the L.A. Metro area including the interchange between Vermont Ave. and the 101 Southbound which was the 7th worst in the country and 2nd worst in California.

2_25_09_congestion_graph.jpg

A deeper look at the numbers shows news that isn’t all bad.  The chart on the left shows that congestion was significantly reduced during the summer in relation to the rest of the year.  You may remember that last summer gas prices were at an all-time high and many car commuters were abandoning their vehicles for car-pooling, transit, biking, walking or even working from home. This summer dip lead to an overall dip in the amount of time driver’s, and bus riders, spent sitting in congestion.

In other words, we may have the country’s worst car congestion, but we also have the solution.  It’s so obvious, yet we never hear it actually said by politicians.

If people want a city with less congested streets and highways, there’s a DIY solution starting you in the face: drive your car less.

For a full copy of the INRIX report, click here.  For a copy of their fact sheet for Los Angeles, click here.

  • Often I hear the critique that building light rail or subways or better bus routes “does not reduce traffic congestion”. I understand that, given the reservoir of people who will decide to drive due to an initial congestion decrease, making up for the initial decrease and causing congestion to go back up, there are plenty of reasons why traffic will continue to get worse as our population increases, even as we continue to construct and enable alternate modes of transit. But I think the numbers in this post, combined with the numbers showing increase in public transit ridership (for example, here: http://www.metro.net/news_info/press/Metro_191.htm) provide a clear counter to that critique.

    Traffic WILL go down due to fluctuating fuel prices, and when people can no longer afford to commute alone in their personal vehicles every day, they look to alternate modes. If a city does not have a good public transit system, people will be left with carpooling as their only option. And while carpooling does reduce congestion slightly, it cannot get as many cars off the road as public transit can, simply due to the limited capacity of personal vehicles.

    So, in a sense, the existence of an extensive public transit system gives the population more options, and perhaps even encourages drivers to start driving less at a lower gas-price-threshold than if such a system did not exist. In this roundabout way, it DOES reduce traffic congestion.

  • LAofAnaheim

    As a counter to your point David….the development of a public transit network will increase congestion. It allows for more density development that wouldn’t happen without a strong transit network. And with all that development, not 100% of those people will be able to continue using transit, which would result in more car traffic. However, this is all fine and dandy. I’d love to streets busier with cars, buses, and people. It’s like a city..you know.

  • If LA wants less traffic with less cars, they need to improve their bike routes, IMHO………………..:)

  • @LAofAnaheim: You’re right. Building substantial transit infrastructure definitely affects development plans and skews them toward higher density. I’d say (and it sounds like you’d agree) that that is smarter growth than sprawl, and that the population will go up regardless, so of the choices, more transit investment is the better option. Higher density would seem to lead to greater congestion, but it also provides an upper limit. Downtown L.A. or Santa Monica can only get so congested before you can’t add another car to the roads.

    Still I think that, in the 2nd largest city in the country, we’d be fooling ourselves if we thought that we should expect less traffic congestion any time soon. The population of L.A. county is supposed to increase by 30% in the next 30 years or so, and whatever improvements we make to reduce congestion, I expect the pop increase will cancel those out. All the more reason to built a good transit (AND BIKE!!) infrastructure that give people options other than sitting in the traffic.

    Another reason I bemoan the loss of the state gas tax hike.

  • Alexzandro

    The entire area of Southern California needs better public transit. The buses in Southern California are always late and arriving to a destination can take at least an hour or more. The constant stop and go among all public bus transportation is awful. They do not even run 24/7. The main reasons for awful transit in Southern California, no the entire state of California, are the lobbyists efforts to keep the automobile industry “Health”

    The Rails are extremely expensive. The turnpikes int he east cost are cheaper than the railsystem passengers’ fare.

    You also have the freedom of the car.

    But the entire State is inferior with infrastrutures that cater to public transportation. What’s worse about it that our good are transported by commercial bigrigs that have no adequate roads for safe transportation. For example: Highway 395 is an extremely dangerous route for commercial drivers and the only one to take for the eastern cities of California. That’s not including the lifeline it represents for Northern Nevada until the intestate 80. When you go south from 395 and finish the 8% grade/2mile drop, commercial drivers have no brakes but the idiotic folks in Bishop thinks a cattle crossing at the bottom, but still low grade, of the 395 is a great idea! There isn’t even emergency ramps for runaway trucks in the 395 Bishop til Nevada.

    That’s how inferior the roads in California are.

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