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Councilman Eric Garcetti Writes in on Traffic

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Yesterday, we highlighted Steve Hymon's explanation on why there is traffic in Los Angeles. We started off by saying something we heard LA City Council President say to a group of people a year ago. In a phone conversation with his office, we said we stated his thoughts, but very simply and that if he wanted to clarify and expand, to please do so. Garcetti did just that in the comments section this morning. Here's what he had to say:

To be clear, I mentioned that there are some cities that have no traffic and that this is a reflection of the lack of economic depression (e.g., Detroit in recent years, etc.). LA's traffic, which needs to be solved, is nevertheless a reflection on some level that people still want to be in LA and that there is a lot of economic activity here.

That said, I believe that traffic is the most important issue we have to solve in our city, from the pollution it causes, the frustration it brings about, and the lost economic efficiency that results from long commutes in inadequate infrastructure.

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One of the main drivers of traffic is the spatial mismatch between jobs and homes that exists in the city. Several factors have led to this mismatch - land prices, the previously low cost of gas and driving in general, and subsequent development focused around the automobile.

In regards to Hollywood, it is a main activity center for the City of Los Angeles, and therefore, not only does the area experience the traffic from those who work and live in this area on a daily basis, congestion is created from discretionary trips that people make to go eat, get a haircut, shop, or watch a movie. And yes, these discretionary trips are the sign of a good economy. So, while we don't advocate for congestion, and we do notice that there is a positive correlation to the economy, it also signals to us that we need to improve options for transit, walking, and biking - all things that we have or are currently working on.

We also need to do everything we can to overcome the lousy planning of the past, where very little consideration was given to the balance between retail, jobs, and housing because our past leaders thought it would always be easy and convenient to get in a vehicle and drive quickly across large distances to our next stop. There are some communities where more people are living closer to where they work and play and this helps improve traffic for everyone.

Thanks for keeping the conversation going. We will update you as we continue some of our efforts to measure the jobs-housing imbalance (we are working on this now with some local universities) and as we look at creative and effective ways of mitigating that imbalance.

Thanks for writing in, Eric!

Photo by cnynfreelancer via Flickr