Archives: Seasons 1-5
Segment | Science & Tech

Bumper to Bumper

Los Angeles has the worst traffic in the country. SoCal drivers sit in rush-hour traffic 93 hours a year — more than twice the national average; the five-county area has more than 2000 freeway miles crowded with more than 10 million commuters; since 1980 Californians have doubled the miles we drive on highways and freeways, but we've built only 6% more miles of freeway lanes. No wonder we're often bumper to bumper.

But there are people trying to make order out of this chaos. We take viewers into the basement of L.A. City Hall where engineers like Bill Shao and Sean Skehan monitor an impressive network of road sensors, overhead cameras, and light synchronizing technology that makes L.A.'s traffic control system one of the most advance in the world.

About ten miles north of downtown, is the $46 million state-of-art CALTRANS facility that oversees freeways in L.A. and Ventura Counties. Their mission is to respond as quickly as possible to everything from multi-car accidents to a dropped ladder. Besides clearing obstacles, they control the message boards that tell us how long it will take for us to arrive at our destination. We talk with Doug Failing and his engineers at the L.A. Regional Traffic Management Center.

Finally we meet author, Tom Vanderbilt, who has traveled the world talking to the experts who study the science of traffic. We find out what he learned for his book Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do (and What It Says About Us). People may complain about the insanity of LA traffic, but Vanderbilt points out a lot of problems are cause by us -- the drivers.

Want some relief from traffic? Do what Rob Greene does.This cycling road warrior bikes 7 miles between his home and his office, saving time, gas, insurance and car repairs. In fact, he doesn't even own a car. But he admits that cycling on surface streets in rush-hour has it risks.

In the end, will technology give drivers the relief we crave? Not completely. But as least after seeing the high-tech wizardry that is our traffic management system, you feel less alone as you caught in that slow-moving river of humanity on our roads and freeways.

LEAVE A COMMENT Leave Comment  

Thank you, Val Zavala and KCET for taking an look at some of the solutions to one of our region's most frustrating, and ongoing, problems. We as Angelenos must collectively say "enough is enough" and make transportation solutions like a fully built out mass transit system and improved highway interchanges, a top priority. We can do it -- I do believe we can build a better tomorrow.

--David Murphy
Co-Founder, Building LA's Future

"Since 1980 Californians have doubled the miles we drive on highways and freeways, but we've only built 6% more miles of freeway lanes."

A Dr. Peter Newman of Curtin University in Western Australia was in Los Angeles recently giving a talk.

He presented a graph of per capita freeway lanes mile vs. driver delay.

Los Angeles has a lot of freeway lane miles per capita. We also have a lot of driver delay. There is no correlation between the two.

Building more freeways will not reduce "gridlock" or "congestion". This is a nice story hook, that seems true based on anecdotal evidence - but upon scientific investigation is FALSE.

Of all the high-tech. monitoring that CalTrans and the LADOT use to spy on our streets - do they ever archive all that data and use it for more accurate traffic models?

The answer, of course, if no. They delete it. Apparently, with all the trouble that "gridlock" causes, we don't need to study it any further than we did in the early- and mid-20th century.

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