TRANSIT IN TRANSITION--In case you haven’t noticed, as the city has increased the density in the Basin Los Angeles traffic has become much worse. According to the measures used by Inrix’s 2017 Traffic scorecard, on a worldwide basis, Los Angeles now has the worst traffic gridlock in the world.
Tom Tom places Los Angeles as fourth worse and in some ways, Tom Tom is more useful. Each urban area with worse traffic congestion than Los Angeles has more density, so it is clear that making LA Basin more dense will make LA’s traffic worse.
Traffic congestion makes cars more popular.
As Judge Allan Goodman ruled in January 2014, Garcetti uses Lies and Myths to deceive the public. (The judge’s actual legalese was “fatally flawed data, wishful thinking that subverts the law.”) Thus, the claim that making LA denser will reduce traffic congestion is the opposite of the truth. Kellyanne Conway is envious that Garcetti can spew forth Alt-Fact after Alt-Fact and never get caught. He succeeds where Kellyanne failed because Garcetti only has to deal with the LA Times which has been in the Alt-Fact business since its inception.
One huge Alt-Fact is that people will use the subways if the city makes traffic unbearable. Our traffic congestion has become the worst in the world, yet cars more popular than ever. The use of mass transit has been decreasing since 1985. Although the Expo Line ran service to Santa Monica and the Gold Line went to Azusa in 2015, usage between 2015 and 2016 fell. People were fooled into voting $200 billion for mass transit because the vast majority of voters expected that others will use the buses and subways, thus making the streets and freeways clearer for them.
Transit usage fell because increased density which created worse traffic congestion makes cars more popular. So we are experiencing the obvious: more density in the Basin attracting more people into the Basin, increasing traffic congestion, causing more people to use their cars.
We love our cars for good reason.
(1) The Metro is slow.
Metro ignores the time it takes a commuter to get from his home to the train or subway station and the time it takes to walk to his destination. A car starts at one’s home and ends up at most destinations. Even if the office is in DTLA, the person may have to park and walk a couple blocks, it takes 27.9 minutes for a one way commute by car and 52.2 minutes by rail, so a car is much faster.
(2) The Metro does not go where people need to go.
Using car, 43.3% of people can reach work within 30 minutes, while only 0.7% can reach work in 30 minutes via transit. The reality is that the overwhelming number of jobs are not reasonable accessibly via transit.
(3) Cars are more comfortable.
Not only is a car almost twice as fast as transit, cars are much more comfortable. Taking a subway or a bus means dealing with the weather. Although LA generally has nice weather, people do not like to be rained on or to have to walk an extra half mile in 90 degree heat. Also, the car’s driver seat can be adjusted to fit perfectly; and with a car, there’s no need to stand inside a crowded transit bus or subway car.
(4) Cars are more convenient.
Cars are the most flexible mode of transportation, making side trips easier. The subway will not change its route to take you to Ralphs or the cleaners on your way home from work. And a car lets you carry a lot of stuff. Getting off a bus to go to Ralphs, then walking back to board another bus, you are is limited as to what can be carried. It’s not realistic to carry a 50 lb. bag of dog food on the subway or bus; with a car, you can load in 200 lbs. of dog food and four bags of groceries plus stop at the cleaners. Anyway, buying the largest bag of something like dog food is generally cheaper. So grocery shopping is overall cheaper when you can load up your car with a few hundred pounds of goodies. It’s also easier to snack on those cookies on the way home.
(5) Most cars will be electric.
Within the foreseeable future, most cars will be electric. While short-term auto emissions are a problem for people who walk or ride bicycles along major thoroughfares, long range planners have to realize that cars will not be polluting the city as much within ten years. Thus, the ecological bias against cars will disappear.
(6) Cars will become self-driving.
At some time in the future, cars will become self-driving. This means that commuters will be free to do other things than pay attention to the road. People will be able to work on their computers and have video conferences with others around the world while driving to work. Of course, a huge portion of physical commuting will already have been replaced by Virtual Presence aka Cisco type Telepresence ©. Planners will need to work out the future interactions between physical transportation and virtual transportation.
(7) Advances in automobile technology will make homes less expensive.
When electric, self-driving cars are combined with Virtual Presence, homes will become less expensive. Virtual Presence will reduce the need to physically leave the home which will reduce traffic, and at the same time, self-driving cars will allow passengers to do things other than drive. As a result, the annoyance factor of traffic congestion will disappear. The experience of driving is much different on a stop ‘n go bumper-to-bumper freeway where you have to be alert every second than it is in a situation where you can watch the evening news and not even notice a slowdown in traffic.
When you combine the impact of self-driving cars and Virtual Presence, people can live farther apart. Yes, we can return to sprawl — and sprawl is the key to decent housing at a decent price. Homes are always less expensive and usually more spacious on the periphery.
Our wonderful, fantastic love affairs with cars.
Our love affair with the cars is unlike other love affairs – it is based in reality. Cars may be the greatest invention of mankind, and there is every reason to believe that our passion for cars will only deepen in the future. A city that makes itself car unfriendly will have made itself inhospitable to human beings.
(Richard Lee Abrams is a Los Angeles attorney and a CityWatch contributor. He can be reached at: Rickleeabrams@Gmail.com. Abrams views are his own and do not necessarily reflect the views of CityWatch.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.