Dan Kegel's Los Angeles Transit Page

Everyone in Los Angeles is tired of traffic, and the problem is sure to get worse. What to do?


There are many web sites on the topic. Here are a few good ones: Transportation/circulation plans: Studies: HOV information Other info from local government bodies related to LA area traffic: And here are a few smaller articles on the topic:


My story

I live in Miracle Mile, and work in Santa Monica, pretty much a straight shot down Wilshire. I usually drive on the 10 to work; takes me 30 minutes there, and an hour back. I don't mind a half hour, but a sixty minute commute is really annoying.

Traffic's only going to get worse. How can we fix this? Public transit seems like the only way. (Sure, we could build another lane on the 10, but it'd just fill up in five years, and we'd be right back where we started. And it wouldn't do anything for surface streets, which are also pretty clogged.)

I've taken the Rapid 720 bus to work three times in two years. The first time it was so crowded I couldn't even get to the fare box to pay until the end of the trip, and the driver said it was like that every day. The second and third times were better, I was able to sit and read. The worst delays seem to be on Wilshire between Bundy and the 405; the third time I did the commute, it had just rained, and it took an hour to travel that one mile.

I've also ridden my bike to work twice. The hills on Pico are a real drag, but somehow the single hill on Olympic is a joy. Go figure. It takes about the same amount of time to bike or ride the bus, but it's a lot harder to read a book while riding a bike...

My friend Chris also works at my office, and lives in North Hollywood. He's tried taking public transit to work two ways: 1) taking a normal (non-rapid) bus down to Santa Monica Boulevard, or 2) taking the subway to Wilshire Boulevard. (Either way, he finishes the trip via a Metro Rapid bus.) The difference is like night and day. The normal buses are far too infrequent (20 minute interval) and erratic (making the 20 minute interval sometimes an hour and a half) to be usable, but if his entire route is on the Rapid bus and the subway, his travel times are predictable and his stress level is low. (Still takes too long, though.)

If public transit is so good for traffic, why don't more people use it?

Getting people out of their cars and onto public transit seems like a great idea, but it's really, really hard to do.

The first and most obvious approach is to make bus service better. The MTA started trying this in 2000 when it introduced Rapid Bus. IMHO this comes down to a) making sure the buses aren't so crowded you can't sit, and b) making the buses come so often you don't have to worry about schedules. (The Rapid Bus lines don't actually meet these criteria, but at least they come closer than the regular lines do.)

Another approach is to require large employers to reduce the car trips made by their employees when commuting to work. In Los Angeles, two laws already try to do something along those lines: AQMD Rule 2202, passed in 1989, and the city Travel Demand Management Ordinance, passed in 1993. I don't know how effective those have been.

Other states are trying to address the feeling "Well, I've paid for my car and my car insurance, so paying for a bus ticket would just be a waste of money" by turning fixed costs into variable costs. For instance, in Washington State, they're trying pay-as-you-drive car insurance; people who take the bus don't pay for car insurance for that trip.

And then there's the idea of "Smart Growth", which sounds great, but in practice sometimes seems to mean "build big developments and hope those people don't use their cars".

An example of a "smart growth"-style proposal is to reduce the number of parking places required for new developments (see Take This Car and Shove It, LA Weekly, August 29, 2007). (Before we do that, better make sure the transit system is so awesome that people who live in transit-centered developents actually use transit... so far I haven't seen much evidence of that. But see the Pasadena Study for possible context... maybe LA is following Pasadena's lead?)

Further improving bus service: Wilshire Boulevard Bus Lanes

Until there's a subway down Wilshire, the city is trying to improve bus service by creating bus-only lanes during rush hour. (They had considered making them full time bus-only lanes, but figured rush-hour-only ones would be less disruptive, as then people could still park on the street during non rush hours.) The April 19, 2007 report from the DOT describes the proposal in detail. Tables B and C give the expected impact.

Table B says that travel from downtown to Santa Monica will become 12 minutes faster for buses, but 6 minutes slower for cars.

Table C says, in part, that the delay in seconds at each intersection will get worse. Here's data for the evening rush hour from two intersections near my house:

Now With Bus Lane With Bus Lane if 10% of drivers switch to bus
La Brea & Wilshire 98 132 111
Highland & Wilshire 58 65 60

As a person who would commute on the bus if it were faster, my impression of the data was, "wow, 12 minutes faster commute to work, where can I sign up? And if we just get 10% of people to switch to public transit, traffic speeds up by 15%."

But lots of folks will look at this and say: "uh-oh, the bus lane will make traffic 25% slower! And the extra congestion will spill over to nearby streets."

Or, as one of the folks who organized resistance to the one-mile trial stretch of the bus lane put it, "Why should motorists ... have to wait longer so buses can zoom past them in dedicated traffic lanes?"

The proposal notes that it would carve out extra roadway from the wide sidewalks between Fairfax and San Vicente and would therefore require a General Plan amendment (because that goes against the Wilshire Community Plan).

However, the map in attachment 1 to the April 19, 2007 report also seems to show extra lanes also being carved out for two blocks around La Brea, possibly harming the character of Miracle Mile and/or violating the Miracle Mile Community Design Overlay Guidelines and contradicting text in the Wilshire BRT Final EIR. Nowhere in the text of the April 19, 2007 report is this mentioned. This discrepency needs to be cleared up.

Last Change 26 Oct 2007
(C) Dan Kegel

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