L.A. is Number One in Traffic Delays, Says Study

As part of a larger series, NY Times guest blogger Eric A Morris talks about traffic in LA, and how the city's structure affects ease of transportation.

"According to the Texas Transportation Institute's 2005 Mobility Report, Angelenos who traveled in the peak periods suffered 72 annual hours of delay. This was number one in the nation, by a large margin.

The T.T.I.'s methodology has some issues, but it is probably safe to say they got this right. I have studied Los Angeles traffic conditions for an 18-year period. My conclusion, to put it in formal transportation terminology, is that Los Angeles traffic really, really sucks.

Not that this eases our pain much, but San Francisco and New York, cities that supposedly show Los Angeles how transportation and urbanization should be done, are tied for second and 15th respectively in most hours of congestion delay."

Thanks to Franny Ritchie

Full Story: Traffic in LA: Fact and Fiction



Judging the Quality of Urban Form

The last paragraph in the synopsis implies that we should judge the quality of urban form by the level of traffic delay.

Clearly, this is problematic. Firstly, because it is simplistic. We should never judge the quality of urban form on one dimension alone. What about environmental performance? What about affordable housing? What about the degree to which opportunities are evenly distributed geographically and poverty isn't concentrated? What about the quality of the pedestrian environment? Of the bike system? Of the transit?

The dilemma of fast driving times is that they are conducive to sprawl. If you can cover 60 miles an hour, you'll be much more willing to live 60 miles away from your job than you would be if you could only cover 20 miles an hour.

Maybe congestion is actually good to some extent because it forces us to live closer to the stuff we do. With hybrids, cars increasingly don't waste gas idling anyway.

The takeaway though is we shouldn't look at urban planning like a bunch of transportation engineers. We don't have the luxury of one-dimensional analysis.

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