Congratulations, Los Angeles, you’ve won the title of city with the worst traffic in the world! According to INRIX, a transportation analytic company, Los Angeles has won the title now six years in a row – a distinction I was completely unaware of when I wrote this piece about LA’s traffic back in 2016. Back then, I mistakenly believed we only had the worst traffic in the country. Silly me.
With a recent move bringing me closer to work, my commute has dropped down to just 25 minutes from door-to-desk, and thus I’ve fallen completely out of the loop about average commute times. But last week, I got reacquainted with the plight of the average Angeleno. I had to travel across town to the Westside for a seminar. I needed to be at the Sunset Luxe Hotel by 9am, and I cheerfully left my Little Tokyo apartment at 8am believing this would be sufficient, with time to spare.
For those of you who regularly commute across Los Angeles, you can stop laughing now.
The distance between Little Tokyo to the Luxe is about 16 miles. The trip took me an hour and 25 minutes to arrive, even while aided toward the fastest routes by GPS. This comes out to an average of a little over 11 mph, or roughly, the speed of a bicyclist.
I don’t have to tell you how our city’s congested traffic affects our health, air quality, pocket books, and the overall economy. We’ve already voted to tax ourselves several times over the past decade in an attempt to alleviate these problems. Unfortunately, as with every large infrastructure project, relief will not be realized for another decade. For now, let’s just look ahead:
- Our investment in public transportation will transform the city of Los Angeles. Planned rail lines and the development around those rail corridors will get thousands of people off the city’s freeways. The effects may not be apparent for a number of years, but our investment in rail will define the landscape of Los Angeles beyond mere transportation.
- Ride sharing services like Lyft and Uber are here to stay for the foreseeable future, contributing in ways we have not yet foreseen, for better or worse.
- Autonomous vehicles are coming. A paradigm change, autonomous vehicles will ideally allow Angelenos to maximize the use of our existing automobile infrastructure, while hopefully still reducing overall congestion.
- Dedicated express busways will fill in the gaps where rail will not and cannot go. Express buses like the Orange Line and the 720 Wilshire will need to bridge the gap for riders currently using our current road infrastructure until full rail implementation becomes available. Over time, like in the case of the Orange Line, ridership will hopefully reach a tipping point where demand from bus to rail emerges. Express buses are the proof of concept properly implemented transportation corridors can work.
- Pedestrians and bicycles will have a large role in shaping our commute, helping us stay healthier. Believe it or not, people will walk (and bike) in Los Angeles if the facilities are safe, well designed and take us where we want to go. In many instances, walking or biking might actually be the fastest mode of transportation available. This is certainly true in Downtown LA right now.
Buckle up fellow travelers! The evolution of transportation in Los Angeles will take awhile to complete, but brighter days glow ahead across our horizon. But till then Angelenos, we’ll all have plenty of time to ponder these improvements as we crawl to and from work, stuck along the 10 or 405.