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Level of Service Canceled in Los Angeles
Joe Linton reports from Lo Angeles, where the City Council recently approved a substantial change to environmental review in accordance with the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).
Linton describes the consequences of choosing LOS as the primary measure of a development project's impact:
LOS is a way of measuring traffic, though it perniciously and simplistically only measures car traffic, and doesn’t even do that meaningfully. Measuring for LOS shows any project that increases car congestion – such as building new housing – as adversely impacting the environment. To supposedly fix congestion – the adverse environmental impact of that new housing – LOS measurements end up requiring more space for cars, so a housing project might also have to widen the road. LOS incorrectly assumes that car traffic is a static quantity, denying the effects of induced travel. LOS said that the 405 Freeway would be less congested after it was widened. That didn’t happen.
The change from LOS to VMT was mandated by SB 743, a law approved by the state of California in 2013. Several cities in the state have already made the switch, including Pasadena and San Francisco. Outside of the state, Seattle is also working on reforming its use of Level of Service as a measure of development impact mitigation.
For more details on the effort by the city of Los Angeles to replace LOS analysis with VMT, see also a post by Steven Sharp from February 2019.