We’re Number 1…In Auto Congestion

1_20_10_hollywood.jpgPhoto provided by: da90027/Flickr

News website The Daily Beast crunches the numbers from the most congested areas in America and finds, to nobody’s surprise, that the worst driving commute in America is right here in Los Angeles.    The Hollywood Freeway ranks as the worst place to commute in the entire country based on rush hour congestion, the worst bottleneck, and the average amount of congestion per week at the worst bottleneck.

Los Angeles’ ranking in this survey is hardly a surprise.  A couple of times a year surveys are released that show Los Angeles’ car gridlock to create the most pollution, waste the most drivers hours, etc.  No matter the methodology, our highway system isn’t working.  What makes this survey interesting, is that they tracked down Metro CEO Art Leahy to explain why the congestion is so thick on the 101.

"I recall they would say things like it’s a 20-minute trip downtown on
the Hollywood Freeway,” Metropolitan Transportation Authority chief
executive Art Leahy says on traffic when he was growing up in Los
Angeles. “No one anticipated the congestion that would emerge."

It always amazes me that transportation professionals can look at the disaster that is our local highway system and comment that the traffic growth is a lot heavier than they ever thought; yet expect people to believe estimates on future traffic growth to justify expensive highway projects that won’t do anything to solve the long-term problem that there’s just too many cars on the road.

  • DJB

    I’m always leery about normative language like “worst” used to describe traffic delay. It parallels language like “improvement” to describe road widenings.

    One of the many silver linings of traffic is it demonstrates our own folly to us in a way that’s impossible to ignore. Why do we think it’s normal to live 30 miles away from work, a distance at which only driving will work well in most cases? Are we afraid to live closer? Is there no affordable housing/homeownerhsip closer? Are there no good schools closer?

    The old saying is true: “don’t put all your eggs in one basket”, be it cars, or sprawl.

  • MU

    Why are you so pessimistic? That $1 billion new carpool lane on the 405 is going to fix everything. There is no possible way they could have improved traffic in the city better with $1 billion.

  • Derek

    Carpool lanes don’t do much to curb congestion in the long term. Here are some better strategies: http://www.grist.org/article/Fighting-congestion-RAND-style/

  • MU

    @Derek – an interesting study with good points. The 405/101 interchange has some specific issues that might be worth addressing. But in general, I think it’s pretty accepted that freeway widening is about the worst way to address congestion.

    I haven’t seen the data nor am I likely qualified to critique. But I would question their conclusion that bicycle and pedestrian strategies are “high cost” and of “negligible” impact. This study (http://www.ceosforcities.org/blog/entry/2169) claims that a 3% reduction in VMT in 2008 resulted in a 30% reduction in congestion. Achieving a 3% bicycle mode share is not unreasonable by any means. And it should hold long term as you are removing drivers from the road and not just shifting them around on different routes.

    Imagine what kind of bicycle facilities could have been built for all of Los Angeles for $1 billion.

  • Erik G.

    Wasn’t the median in the photo above the location of the Pacific Electric rail line to North Hollywood? The one that Caltrans forced PE to remove even when PE offered to rebuild it to fit inside the new Hollywood Freeway layout?

  • Erik G.
  • Anyone know what the buildings are in the back of the photo? Downtown Hollywood? or somewhere further west?

    I love the term “expert”–it can usually be translated into “expert in the status quo.” But the status quo is so irrational and moronic, anyone labeled an expert in it has to feign ignorance else they be truly understand as an absolute professional failure.

    “Wait a minute you mean the fervent pursuit of a monoculture in our transportation system led to the shit storm we find ourselves in today! But we just poured another billion dollars into this mess! Damn, well, thank god everyone’s already heavily medicated, dying of diabetes, divorced, addicted to television, and drowning in credit card debt…or else they’d probably have my job!”

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