Traffic Congestion

Are 'Sexy' Buses, Tunnels and Tolls the Answer to L.A. Traffic?

Los Angeles' city plan wants you out of your car (however unrealistic that is).

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If you've driven a car in Los Angeles, you know it has some of the worst traffic in the United States. Commuters can often expect to be in traffic for more than an hour to get across the city.

In fact, a recent study from the American Highway Users Alliance found that Los Angeles has 12 of the 50 worst bottlenecks in the U.S. (And six of them are in the top 10). It's not as if the city is tone deaf to the problem, but their solutions may be.

The city's Mobility 2035 plan (a vision for what the city of LA will look like in the decades to come) suggests creating more bike lanes, encouraging people to walk to work and light rail. It's akin to what New York City already has where people commute without the use of cars and live in densely populated downtown areas.

"Everybody wants to be New York City," says Baruch Feigenbaum, a transportation policy analyst at Reason Foundation. "LA, unlike say New York, is a system where people live in many areas and work in many areas […] And so you've got people going from everywhere to everywhere."

Feigenbaum says Angelinos commute by car because the the city had the car when it was built. Contrast that with New York City, where the city was created around walking and later horse and carriage.

"The car is symbol. It's a symbol of personal mobility, it's a symbol of freedom, it's a symbol basically of living in Southern California," says Feigenbaum.

Feigenbaum points to ideas in Reason Foundation's Increasing Mobility in Southern California: A New Approach as solutions to Los Angeles' traffic woes. Some of the ideas include tunnels, tolled lanes and something called managed arterials (underpasses or overpasses for surface streets.)

The total cost of the plan is $700 billion over the next 25 years, but about half of that comes out of existing tax revenues and the other half comes out of the tolls mentioned above.

After the plan was released in November 2015, LA Curbed's Jeff Wattenhofer took aim at the idea of tolling saying, "It appears Reason wants to create a system of VIP driving. Express tunnels would be available for those who can pay, and crumbling surface roads would have to suffice for the rest."

"If you look at the folks who actually use the lanes in the places where they are actually in use right now including some lanes in Los Angeles, that's not what you see," says Feigenbaum. "The five most common car makes in the lanes are Toyota, Honda, Ford, Chevrolet and I believe Nissan and the types of cars are Toyota Carollas, Ford F150s. These are certainly not luxury vehicles."

Approximately 6:02.

Produced by Paul Detrick. Shot by Alex Manning.

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