By Robert B. Lamishaw, October 2, 2014
TRAFFIC AND PARKING SOLUTIONS … A TWO-PART SERIES-It is no secret to anyone who drives in LA that getting to and from work, or even taking a quick trip into town is becoming ever more difficult, expensive and time consuming. Increasing traffic levels mean road users can spend up to several hours a day stuck in traffic.
The result of the ever increasing traffic is an increase in business costs, a loss of productive working hours, increased air pollution, reduction in the average mpg of automobiles (due to the low speeds caused by traffic congestion and delays), higher levels of impatience and “road rage” and a general reduction in the amount of time people can spend with their families or pursuing personal interests. These factors all result in a general reduction in the overall quality of life for LA’s residents.
LA faces huge problems from the weight of traffic congestion and high levels of pollution caused by mobile sources. Much has been said and a lot of money has been spent encouraging alternative forms of transport, with the focus being on bicycling, public transport and walking.
However, walking and cycling are options which are generally considered to be only viable for regular trips of up to a couple of miles. The under development of public transport in LA means that large numbers of people living outside so called transit corridors have problems taking advantage of alternatives such as buses and trains.
In addition, people’s lives are now more dynamic than they were 30 years ago, with individual aspirations for work and leisure demanding door to door transport which is not restricted by the constraints of public transport timetables.
The "Father Knows Best" days when Dad went to work in the morning and Mom stayed home are pretty much gone. Today most families are either made up of a single working parent or a two parent family where both parents work. In this more demanding and stressful environment only personal transport seems to allow the kind of flexibility most people need and demand.
These considerations might explain why previous campaigns to get people to switch in greater numbers from car use to public transport; walking and cycling, have often had limited success.
There is, however, one widely used form of transport which (like bicycling was until the 1990s) has been largely ignored by transportation strategists, yet:
● Provides significant environmental advantages over current patterns of car use;
● Addresses the transportation problems outlined above, while at the same time allowing people to continue to enjoy the freedom that personal transport gives;
● Can help to reduce traffic congestion and commute times for automobile drivers;
●And can play a positive role, along with the encouragement of cycling, walking and public transport in developing an integrated transport strategy for the future.
That strategy is to encourage the voluntary use of PTWs, (Powered Two Wheel vehicles, basically motorcycles, mopeds and motor scooters), as part of a total integrated transportation system.
Environmental Considerations- The EPA and AQMD are placing increased demands on LA to reduce air pollution. A significant portion of air pollution comes from mobile sources, specifically commuter traffic and private passenger vehicles. Additionally, it is becoming increasingly clear that our reliance on fossil fuels is something which needs to be reduced.
The real world fuel efficiency of even modern cars is significantly reduced in the LA commute due to the amount of time drivers spend idling, or moving slowly during rush hours. Average speeds on LA’s freeways during rush hour traffic are frequently below 15 mph, often with long periods where cars are near idle or with speeds in the 5 to 10 mph range. Beside the obvious negative effect on our quality of life, high levels of traffic congestion produce excessive noise and emissions, which have been linked to health problems among the general population.
The accepted solution – Public Transportation-The picture for public transport in LA is very mixed. High costs of construction, limited public funding, limited routes; huge geographic area; all constrain the potential for mass public transit to be “the solution” to increasing congestion. Don't take this the wrong way, mass transit is a very important part of the mix but it does have a number of limitations, including:
● Limited routes and time tables;
● High cost per passenger mile, often requiring significant tax payer funded subsidies to keep ticket costs reasonable;
● An increasingly complex transportation pattern that is not limited to the classic suburb to downtown commute but is as much, or more, a suburb to suburb commute;
● High cost of construction and limited availability of public funding;
● The fundamental belief that public transportation is something “the other guy should use so that I can enjoy less traffic when driving my car”;
● And, individual aspirations for work and leisure which demand door to door transport which is not restricted by the constraints of public transport timetables and routes.
There is an alternative-The Powered Two-Wheeler (PTW) – including motorcycles, scooters and mopeds - offers a viable alternative for many to reliance on the automobile and as part of an integrated transport policy can benefit all of LA residents. Large numbers of drivers have street legal PTW's which they limit to recreational use. With a little thought and very little money we can encourage the wider use of this underutilized resource and start to reverse some of the damaging trends that traffic congestion has on our daily lives.
It is ‘integration’ that is the key. Working together with cars, buses, bicycles, trains and planes PTWs can have a significant role in reducing traffic congestion and providing us with a better faster more efficient transport system. PTWs can be very economical, take up much less road and parking space than does a car and produce less pollution than most cars actually do. Even the smallest moped can offer a much reduced travel time compared to a car for many shorter and inner-urban trips.
In Part 2, I'll go over how LA can, with very little public funds, start to take advantage of the vast untapped resource and help encourage the voluntary use of PTW's thus reducing LA's traffic problems and improving the quality of life for all.