Los Angeles is known for its car culture, but the city’s congested routes and headache-inducing traffic jams that come with it have only been getting worse.
Whether one is a native or newcomer to the City of Angels, one thing is for sure, traffic. It is the most congested city in the U.S. according to a study by Inrix.
The study determined that Angelenos each spend about $2,408 per year because of squandered fuel due to sitting in traffic, and the city itself spends billions in related costs.
For decades, officials have tried to analyze and solve the problems of the city’s freeways and roads. It could be relieved if the city resorted to making commitments to repair and replenish the freeway system, essentially believing “more” is the answer. But it is a short sighted view, and the past has not given solid certainty in this present issue.
Many freeways and rail connections were planned to be built, but, as stated in an LA Times piece, lack of interest and funding let the road network slip through our fingers. There is also no guarantee we would be better off now. We are falling through the cracks of our current situation.
This current situation has only sprouted more issues, which include damage to the pavement itself because of the constant wear and tear of cars and disrupting the natural environment and terrain of the city because of road and freeway construction.
Los Angeles has been trapped in a damage, repair, and repeat cycle for years. Once roads or sections of a freeway become overused because of the constant traffic, renovations must be made. This can take a few weeks, a few months or even years such as the past upgrades to the ever problematic 405. The New York Times reported that it took $1.6 billion, just to widen the 405.
No matter how much the city tries to execute these repairs, let alone seek funding for it, more cars get on the road and the pavement will reach its capacity of being able to endure it all.
There is also only so much space we can use to get to our destinations and still leave room for the destinations themselves.
Los Angeles has a varying terrain that includes hills, mountains, basin, desert and beaches, and they all have their unique wildlife as well as manmade neighborhoods, each having their own respective charm. Roads and freeways allow us to be able to access these places, but there is a breaking point when these paved lanes will start to distort the beauty of nature and man-made wonders alike.
The city should maintain its namesake of these neighborhoods and natural places, without disrupting them with concrete overpasses and the car pollution that comes with them. As for the people who inhabit these areas, they seem to spend a lot of their time sitting in this traffic, instead of getting to where they need to be.
Many Angelenos drive wherever they need or want to go, but with this city’s population of second largest in the country, it makes having an easy flow of cars difficult. Simply sitting in this sea of cars and smog only hurts in the end.
The toxic components of car exhaust can cause respiratory problems if inhaled over long periods of time, which seems to be the case here. And since we are a city that runs on the automobile, activities such as walking, biking and skateboarding, are swept aside.
But it isn’t enough to simply know what problems arise from this traffic dilemma because we can’t seem to find a solution to it all. We could get stuck in the cycle of thinking more roads and freeways will be the end all be all of it, not realizing the exponential use of cars and money drained has proven otherwise.
This unnecessary back and forth of dead-end ideas is getting the city nowhere and there is no better time than now to focus on the critical issue at hand; how we fix this cramped city while still maintaining our status as a renowned metropolis.
And it is not a matter of creating “more” and “new” in order to alleviate traffic. There is one thing that is a current problem rooted in a potentially strong solution, and it already exists here. Public transportation.
It is a problem because though it seems like Los Angeles could be fit for buses and trains, we have not used them to their greatest potential. According to a 2015 LA Times article, connections for current Metro rail lines, such as the Purple Line extension and Sepulveda line, will not be completed until the years 2023 and 2039.
The existing trains constantly need maintenance and there are not enough train cars that run frequently to sustain big crowds, as seen in January with the influx of people who went to the Women’s March in Downtown.
Buses have similar problems, the main one being they do not run early or late enough, with large gaps of time between buses. They too get caught up in the street traffic of the city, which just makes them later for their next stop.
“Sometimes what should be a 30-minute ride, turns into a two-hour ride,” said PCC student Shanell Venadas, who commutes by bus. “Taking a bus is more cost friendly, but it takes twice as much time to get to school than it would take if I drove there.”
Sometimes, it isn’t as cost friendly as it seems. A week long Metro pass costs $25 and a month is $100. Plus, the rail lines and buses we do have, won’t get us exactly where we’re going. It’s no wonder people would rather invest the money for gas than for a plastic card and a complicated route.
But the reality of it is, is that public transportation is our best option, and we must utilize it with its benefits.
Angelenos agree, with the passing of Measure M in November that would input a tax to fund public transportation and freeway projects and connections. We need to focus on and ensure that trains and buses can get us to a wider range of places, in time frames that make cars look like carriages.
Public transport has also been known to better the mental health of its users, as seen in a study by the University of East Anglia. Without having to worry and stress about other drivers, people, especially in a place as diverse as Los Angeles, can be better connected to others around them rather than lashing out from and being shut inside their cars.
Instead of expanding freeways that will always crumble and age, we need to use advances in engineering to the best of our ability to keep public transport moving, and evolving with the population that uses it. This will also help in the sense that jobs in public transport will be more long term and stable than the temporary freeway construction jobs.
It must also be affordable. City dwellers already have enough expenses on their hand with soaring rents and other necessities. If PCC and other LA college students can get the Metro passes we have at prices that save money in the long run, the rest of the city should have access as well. We all share this place, and deserve to get where we’re going without added problems that come with overuse of cars.
With this, they can reevaluate how they spend their commute time and feel confident in their decision to go public, but still get where they need to be. Freeways and roads should no longer be the most popular crutch of coming and going. We’ve relied on them too long. City populations are addressed as the “public”, it is time we commute as such.
Sure, the saying may go as “it’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey”, but the journey should not feel like a prolonged destination itself.