If you have three minutes to spare, I highly recommend Damien Newton's post in response to an opinion piece in the Los Angeles Times griping about Westside traffic.
In the Times, editorial writer Carla Hall complained that Los Angeles City Council candidates for the Westside seat (11th district) didn't say much about fixing traffic at a recent Streetsblog forum. She's a longtime Brentwood resident and motorist and doesn't think transit and cycling improvements will help improve her commute to downtown Los Angeles.
I thought the article was intended to be more provocative than informative — it's hard to blame Westside motorists for venting/blowing their stack. Damien apparently thought likewise.
I think the issue that we both had was the notion that traffic can be fixed solely by focusing on traffic. Unfortunately, there's not a lot of evidence from around the world that traffic gets “fixed” — chokepoints can be smoothed, roads can be managed differently (i.e. the ExpressLanes) but it's pretty hard to make traffic go poof and vanish without without wrecking the economy or making it literally illegal or too expensive to drive.
Take it away, Damien:
But to your specific problem, living in Brentwood and commuting via car Downtown there are really only three solutions: move, get a new job, or get over it. That commute is a result of decisions you made and are making. Thanks to a wife that makes quite a bit more than I do, we could live in Brentwood if we wanted to, but we live in Mar Vista. Why? Because the Expo Line and Bike Path are coming. Brentwood may have a legendary private school system and some of the nicest real estate in L.A., but Mar Vista will have much better bike and transit options.It’s all part of the decisions we make. It’s the governments job to make it possible for you to live where you want and can afford and work where you want and can get a job. It’s not their job to make it as easy and smooth as possible. Your commute is part of the price you pay to live in Brentwood and work Downtown.And if you think there are too many cars on the street, remember that you are in one of them. You’re part of the problem, not part of the solution.
In my job as government mouthpiece, I'll take the time here to mention some Metro projects that I think will improve mobility on the Westside.
The first two are the Expo Line Phase Two and the Foothill Extension Gold Line. When both projects open in a few years, Metro's rail network will gain 18 miles of track and make it possible to ride from Azusa, Long Beach, North Hollywood and downtown L.A. to Santa Monica. I think that will make it easier for some people to reach their jobs on the Westside and/or Westsiders escape the Westside. Hey Kurt Russell: “Escape from the Westside” — I'd go see it!
The second is the I-405 Sepulveda Pass Improvements Project, which is adding a northbound carpool lane to the 405 between the 10 and 101 freeways and making a host of other fixes. Among those are a widened Sunset Boulevard bridge over the 405 and new Wilshire Boulevard on- and 0ff-ramps. Both of those are designed to improve traffic flow better around the 405 on Sunset and Wilshire boulevards — two sources of chronic frustration for Brentwood motorists. The carpool lane will perhaps encourage more carpooling or transit use between the Valley and the Westside.
The Wilshire bus lane project will add about 7.7 miles of peak period bus lanes from the Santa Monica-Los Angeles border to just west of downtown on Wilshire. The project is designed to shave a few minutes off local and rapid bus travel in the corridor. It should help until the subway gets built (see below) and once the subway is built, the bus lanes should help speed surface travel to areas between rail stations.
The Westside Subway Extension will end at the VA Hospital in Westwood and make it possible to travel downtown in 25 minutes, mostly under Wilshire Boulevard. The line doesn't quite reach Brentwood, but it's close and should help provide an alternative to driving for those visiting the VA, students and staff at UCLA and workers in Westwood, Century City and Beverly Hills. Of course, the subway isn't currently scheduled to reach Westwood until 2036, but Measure J (which narrowly lost at the polls with 66.1 percent of the votes) would have accelerated that to the early 2020s. There are other efforts by Metro to secure the funds needed to build projects more quickly so that all commuters can enjoy their benefits. Those efforts would likely benefit from media coverage and/or discussion.
The Sepulveda Pass Transit Corridor is seeking to build transit between the Westside and the San Fernando Valley via the pass. Among options under study are bus rapid transit, a rail line and a rail line in conjunction with a tolled tunnel for motorists. The project is also under study as a public-private partnership as a way to perhaps get it built sooner. In my view, a rail line between the Valley that intersects both the Expo Line and the subway could provide a tremendous alternative to driving that would likely be faster than driving.
Of course, these are all big taxpayer-funded projects. They need and deserve media scrutiny to help ensure they are the best projects they can be. It would also be tremendous if other influential media outlets in the area could look at transportation issues and improvements that may help the Westside and other areas of Southern California grappling with traffic congestion.