Traffic in L.A. A city unclear on the concept

traffic

Steve Lopez of the LA Times writes about the utterly dysfunctional traffic in Los Angeles. 11 mile drives on the Westside now can easily take 90 minutes. Everyone wants the city to do something. But …

I called Jaime de la Vega, Los Angeles deputy mayor for transportation, to see what he says about it all and to ask if he’s gotten rid of his Hummer yet. He didn’t call back. I know it’s a free country, but we have to hope the transit boss in a city with legendary smog and traffic is no longer tooling around town in a goofball buggy the size of a tank.

Heck, he’s probably replaced it with a stretch Hummer by now. God forbid someone in charge of transportation in the City of Los Angeles actually have a clue about what to do, much less be a role model.

Los Angeles has never had a clue about transportation. A usable trolley system was scrapped and freeways built instead. The freeways were built in a spoke design, with downtown as the hub, rather than in concentric circles, which would have made far more sense. Mike Davis documents in one of his books how this was done not for the public interest, but rather because downtown real developers would make more money with a hub design.

Public transportation is woefully inadequate here. Yes, there finally is a subway, but it’s too little too late and still being fought by Westside interests, which is precisely where it’s needed the most. But even many of them now understand that their upscale home and location isn’t much good if it routinely takes 30 minutes to drive 5 miles during the late afternoon.

There are plans to have some major streets go in one direction, or maybe contra-flow during peak hours. Well, duh. This should have been done years ago. NYC has long had one-way avenues and Seattle has contra-flow, and it works just fine for them.

The traffic in Los Angeles is a major reason Sue and I are moving. It continually gets worse, never better. Changing the flow on a few streets, although needed, is a band-aid. The real problem is a lack of usable mass transit. That’s what the city needs, and that’s what it will not be getting.

What happens when a city becomes so choked by traffic that commerce slows down and people stop moving there? In the next 5-10 years Los Angeles will be discovering just that.