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Posts from the "Car Congestion" Category

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Vehicle Automation versus Connectivity, and What it Might Mean for Traffic

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The U.S. Department of Transportation’s depiction of connected vehicles on a controlled-access highway.

ed’s note: This week, we’re featuring a short series of articles from our board member Juan Matute on what he’s thinking about technology and transportation.

I have the opportunity to be involved in a lot of interesting research as the Associate Director of the UCLA Institute of Transportation Studies. Over the past year, I’ve been involved with our study of policy, behavioral, and market research to better understand opportunities and challenges for connected vehicles implementation.

The study’s formal title is NeTS:Large: Collaborative Research: Closing the loop between traffic/pollution sensing and vehicle route control using traffic lights and navigators, so we call it Green City Transportation Architecture. It’s funded by the National Science Foundation and is more exploratory than applied. Don’t expect to see the research project’s results become commercialized in the near term.

We’ve supported a team of computer scientists looking to optimize vehicle traffic flow within cities and regions through the use of connected “smart” traffic signals, a central navigation server (think Waze Plus), and a dynamic congestion charge.  Implementing such a system requires vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure connectivity, which is the focus of this article.

Vehicles must be aware of their environment in order to respond to it. Automated but unconnected vehicles are limited to one-way line-of-sight scanning to assess their environment. Connected vehicles use data connectivity to communicate with infrastructure and other vehicles, including those outside the line-of-sight, either around curves or more than one vehicle ahead.  Connectivity enables data communication for an activity that’s largely dependent on visual communication (presence of vehicles, stop signs, lane paint, etc.), aural communication (honking), and a set of rules of the road. We’ve already seen the possibilities of data communication between vehicles (or their occupants’ smartphones) and central servers, but there are much greater possibilities from vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure connectivity.

Many of the benefits that people associate with vehicle automation actually come from vehicle connectivity. Adaptive cruise control, where a trailing vehicle automatically speeds up or slows down to maintain separation from the vehicle in front of it, is a vehicle automation feature. However, the biggest increase in vehicle throughput only comes from adaptive cruise control with multi-car platoons, which requires vehicle connectivity Read more…

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You Can’t Fix Traffic. You Are Traffic.

(Yesterday, the Los Angeles Times printed an editorial in their online opinion page by editorial writer Carla Hall. The editorial called out the City Council Candidates in CD 11 for not addressing car drivers’ concerns at a Streetsblog Forum and suggested some ways to “improve” traffic on the Westside. Since we were mentioned, we thought we would respond.)

Dear Carla,

This empty field might hold the answer to congestion problems for tens of thousands of Angelenos, but probably not Carla Hall

I read your piece in yesterday’s Los Angeles Times urging the Westside City Council candidates to come up with solutions to fix traffic. You cite the difficulties of living in Brentwood and working downtown and how awful it is to sit in traffic. You don’t seem to think that transit or bicycling is a good way to relieve traffic, mostly because it wouldn’t work for you.

I have some bad news for you.

There isn’t anything that anyone can do to make your commute any better. Double-decking the 405, an idea that Governor Schwarzenegger floated a couple of times, would be a disaster. You think construction impacts from adding a measly HOV lane are bad? What do you think double-decking would be like. Think Carmageddon for a month at a time.

The Pico-Olympic Plan was so unpopular that none of the Council Members that represent an impacted area (Rosendahl, Koretz, Wesson) think its a good idea. It’s such a bad idea it might have cost Jack Weiss a job as City Attorney. Many in his City Council district turned on him after his support for turning to already difficult streets into mini-freeways. Oh, and

Study after study shows that the best ways to support business is to increase access. Taking away parking, without adding improved connections for non-car shoppers, is doing just the opposite.

I don’t think I can say anything about a proposal to add hundreds of cars to a campus that caters to disabled veterans without getting insulting. Read more…

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Congestion Pricing Opens on the I-10, Hysteria on Hold

Image via Metro

This weekend, Express Lanes opened on 14 miles of the I-10 between Alameda Street in downtown Los Angeles and the 605 freeway. The lanes converted existing HOV lanes to HOV/HOT lanes during non-peak hours. This means solo-car commuters can buy their way into the carpool lane if they have a FastTrack transponder. Carpoolers will also need to purchase the transponder. This need is controversial.

But what hasn’t been controversial is the actual conversion. When New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg proposed a congestion pricing fee for some lanes in New York City, the press and many community groups went into over drive. In Los Angeles, there were a handful of angry letters sent to the Metro Board of Directors, and there seems to be grumbling about the transpoder requirement for carpools. Other than that, the hysteria is on hold. Or even non-existent.

The worst coverage of ExpressLanes, and really the only negative mainstream coverage, came from ABC 7′s super reporter David Ono. Ono interviews presidents, travels to disaster zones, and is one of ABC’s anchors. I’m guessing at some point he’s going to look back at this story and regret it. Basically, Ono goes for a ride with a driver next to the I-110 ExpressLanes and does a “man on the street” story that is more than a little slanted against the project.

After the video, read on to see what Ono got wrong.


Read more…

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Could the Sepulveda Corridor Congestion Reduction Plan Equal Carmaheaven?

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A map of the plan. Image: Google Maps and Juan Matute

With Carmageddon once again looming over Los Angeles, we have another opportunity to reflect on the 405 freeway: what does it mean and what do we want from it? 

What does it mean that the 405 between the 90 and the 101 has been under construction for the better part of this millenium, yet it still ranks as one of the most congested freeways in the U.S?  To myself and other transportation researchers, this means that adding capacity and managing the system at the margins doesn’t work for the 405.  It means that more innovative strategies are required for Los Angeles to have a transportation system that works better for everyone.

While millions of Southern Californians dread the weekend closure (perhaps not enough this year), a typical weekday on the 405 leaves hundreds of thousands of Los Angeleños wanting something better.  First, they want to spend less time stuck in traffic and more time doing other things.  Second, they want alternatives, like a robust transit connection between the San Fernando Valley, the Westside, and LAX.  Adding a northbound carpool lane and reconfiguring ramps between the 10 and 101 will not make the 405 any less congested at rush hour on a Friday.

Read more…

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Congestion on the 4th of July, the Orange Line and Dennis P. Zine

Anyone lucky enough to attend “Councilman Dennis P. Zine’s July 4th Fireworks Extravaganza Presented by Keyes Automotive Group” were treated to an afternoon and evening of free music and fireworks in an open space.  They were also treated to hearing the “Keyes on Van Nuys” theme song about 122,000 times (I counted.)

But right before the fireworks, they were also treated a surprise endorsement of Metro from the Councilman’s mouth.  For much of the afternoon and evening Zine and Congressman Brad Sherman, both in tough election campaigns, served as unofficial emcee’s to the event, a job which seemed to require thanking everyone they saw in the audience that they recognized and asking for the “Keyes on Van Nuys” theme song to be played again.  However, as the crowd started to file out, Zine hit a different note:

“Those of you that came from afar, thank you.  Those of you that rode the Orange Line, you’re going to have a great trip home.  Those of you that drove could have long waits to access the streets.  Maybe one or two hours.  Be patient.  But those of you that took the Orange Line are gong to have a great trip.”

Go Metro.

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L.A. Doesn’t Have the Worst Traffic in the Country

(This article first appeared at Occidental College’s Urban and Environmental Policy Blog.)

This morning I saw a No on 23 yard sign. It read “Stop Texas Oil. Vote No on 23.”

A few minutes ago I came across a recent study by CEOs for Cities that could be summed up as “Stop Texas Sprawl Merchants.  Distance matters, not congestion.”

For years, the most frequently cited measure of mobility  in urban areas has been the Texas Transportation Institute’s Urban Mobility Report (UMR), which rates metro areas based on how much traffic congestion commuters experience. No surprise, Los Angeles is number one on the list of most congested cities, occupying the top slot 14 out of 15 years that the study has been published.

I had referenced this report myself without looking into their methodology. Read more…