Traffic Congestion in Los Angeles

Traffic Congestion in Los Angeles

An analysis of the major problems affecting the people of Los Angeles portrays the problematic issue of traffic congestion. Indeed, the city is touted as the most affected with statistics showing that travelers sped more than 40 minutes of their time in traffic for every one hour travelled.  The problem is not however isolated to the city as it is a log-standing urban problem facing all the major cities across the globe. That notwithstanding, traffic congestion in Los Angeles is quite unique as it has continued to increase with increases in population density against the normal trends. It results from an imbalance between the supply of roads and the demand for driving and especially during peak hours (Taylor, 2012). Any solution to the problem of traffic congestion in Los Angeles must either focus on the boosting of road supply or the management of demand during peak driving hours. Still, the problem has persisted despite various interventions initiated by the government to tackle the issue of traffic congestion.

One of the most cited solutions to the traffic congestion issue is the increase of roads to cater for increased demand for driving. Indeed, calls for such a solution are driven by the observation that miles traveled have been increasing at a faster rate than the supply of roads. It is therefore easier to conclude that a rigorous campaign to construct roads would solve Los Angeles problems. However, the building of roads itself cannot sufficiently tackle the traffic congestion because it loses its effectiveness over time. According to Brown, Morris & Taylor (2009), road construction is faced with the triple convergence phenomenon whereby improvements in road capacity attract additional travelers thus compounding the problem. In fact improvements in road standards during peak hours of driving result in more travelers that otherwise used the roads at other times. Although road building does promote greater aggregate movement, it’s potential to reduce congestion during peak hours is not guaranteed.

The unique situation in the city calls for better approaches in dealing with the persistent problem of traffic congestion. Perhaps the best idea would be the implementation of diverse pricing strategies to reduce the demand for driving. Further, these strategies have the potential of availing sustainable solutions to reduce traffic congestion in the long term. In this approach, the government should charge more to drive or park within the busiest areas of the city especially during the peak hours (Shoup, 2005). Ideally, the current problem is enhanced through the under pricing of driving thus providing enough impetus for people to drive cars. Even though driving contributes to economic costs such as social and environmental costs, individual motorists are not required to offset the costs. Instead, the costs are passed onto the society in general giving drivers the impression that driving is actually cheap. Through pricing strategies, drivers are forced to internalize the costs including the externalities of driving. In the end, drivers will reduce their demand for driving thus reducing the overuse of the available road capacity.

The problem of traffic congestion is further compounded by an overreliance on road transport at the expense of other methods of transport. Although the city has the second largest transit system in the US, it sure needs some improvements to attain prospects of minimal traffic congestion. Obviously, implementation of pricing strategies would push relatively poor drivers out of the road and an alternative form of transportation should be availed. First, the current bus rapid transit system should be expanded to encourage public transportation (Taylor, 2005). Full implementation of this strategy would see special lanes for buses increased such that traffic congestion is concentrated on other lanes. More drivers would then be motivated to abandon private driving and join the public transport system thus reducing the demand for road driving. The beauty of this approach is that it involuntarily pushes drivers off the road thus creating more room for public transport systems.

The issue of traffic congestion is in part occasioned by a generational change in behavior especially among the young ones. There is an increasing desire for young people to drive to school as opposed to using other form so transport. In the past, about 50% of the children biked or walked to their schools leaving half of the children to drive to school (Brown, Morris & Taylor, 2009). However, about 85% of children drive to school despite the distance being shorter than three miles today. The generational change has contributed to traffic congestion since most children travel during the rush hour. The government should address the issue by encouraging more children to walk or bike to school thus minimizing the number of cars on the roads. In this regard, special biking and walking paths should be marked for use by children. In addition, car pooling should be encouraged as an alternative method of transport.

Still, the potential to reduce the problem of traffic congestion in Los Angeles is best found in technology. All over the world, people have witnessed the power of technology in addressing some of the most persistent problems of modern time. The government should thus avail more advanced traffic control systems such as the synchronization of lights to decrease the start and stop nature of traffic. Further, the government should incentivize the acquisition of self driving vehicles such as the ones designed by Google. The importance of these cars is that they not only communicate amongst themselves but also interact with the road thus increasing efficiency in road usage. By investing in smart roads, the government provides an opportunity for these cars to drive very close to each other while maintain high speeds. Eventually, the implementation of this strategy results in the improvement of road capacity and the ultimate reduction of traffic congestion.

The problem of congestion in Los Angeles presents more questions than answers. While there are virtually over ten strategies proposed to address the problems, its uniqueness requires a thorough understanding before any of these solutions is implemented. The lack of adequate road capacity is not the main problem in Los Angeles with city ranking among the densest in terms of road network (Taylor, 2005). In addition, the problem of traffic congestion persists even after implementation of numerous strategies such as ramp metering and transit service. Arguably, the problem of traffic congestion in Los Angeles requires a holistic approach in attaining sustainable solutions for the future. Pricing strategies appear to be the most viable solutions coupled with the use of technology in controlling and managing road usage. Further, development of alternative public transport systems as well as addressing the generational changes would lead to substantial gains in tackling traffic congestion.



Brown, J. R., Morris, E. A., & Taylor, B. D. (2009). Planning for cars in cities: Planners, engineers, and freeways in the 20th century. Journal of the American Planning Association, 75(2), 161-177.

Shoup, D. C. (2005). The high cost of free parking (Vol. 206). Chicago: Planners Press.

Taylor, B. D. (2012). Rethinking traffic congestion. Access Magazine, 1(21).


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