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13 Ways to Fix LA Traffic, the RAND Corporation Style

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The RAND Corporation came out with a study today focusing on short-term transportation policy options that could improve transportation in the city. They based their findings on what they see as the problem of Los Angeles traffic: mainly cheap and abundant parking and polycentricism (various sub-centers instead of one downtown area). And one of the more interesting reasons why traffic reductions are usually temporary seems to be the human psyche:

It doesn't take a huge reduction in traffic to make a difference: even 2 percent to 3 percent fewer cars on the roads could reduce congestion by 10 percent to 15 percent. But these reductions are usually only temporary, [Martin] Wachs [of RAND] said. When traffic conditions on a roadway are improved during the peak hours -- such as by adding new roads -- additional travelers will converge on that road from other times of travel, other routes of travel and other modes of travel. "People notice that there's less traffic on the 405 Freeway during rush hour, and say to themselves, ‘Now I can go back to driving during rush hour,' or ‘Now I don't have to leave by 2 in the afternoon,' or ‘Now I don't have to take the surface streets instead of the freeway,'" Wachs said.

The thirteen recommendations are below:

  • Install curbside parking meters that charge more during peak business hours for parking in congested commercial and retail districts.
  • Enforce the existing California state law that allows employees to "cash out" the value of their parking spaces. Companies with more than 50 employees who lease parking are supposed to offer their employees the option of cash instead of free parking, but this law is not enforced.
  • Implement local fuel tax levies at the county level to raise transportation funds.
  • Develop a network of high-occupancy/toll lanes on freeways throughout Los Angeles County.
  • Evaluate the potential for implementing tolls on those entering major activity centers, like those that exist in London and Singapore.
  • Expand rapid bus transit with bus-only lanes on arterial streets and express freeway service in the high-occupancy/toll lanes.
  • Offer and aggressively market deeply discounted transit passes to employers, who would purchase passes for all employees, allowing those who commute by transit to ride at reduced cost.
  • Develop an integrated, region-wide network of bicycle pathways.
  • Restrict curb parking on busy arterial streets.
  • Convert selected major surface streets to one-way streets.
  • Prioritize and fund investments in upgraded signal timing and control.
  • Bolster outreach efforts to assist businesses in promoting ridesharing programs, telecommuting and flexible work schedules.
  • Evaluate the costs and benefits of implementing a regional incident management system on the arterial streets to reduce congestion caused by traffic accidents.