L.A.’s Freeways Have Slowed Down Since 2015

Heavy traffic clogs the 101 Freeway as people leave work for the Labor Day holiday in Los Angeles on August 29, 2014. A Labor Day travel prediction by the American Auto Association (AAA) expects that 34.7 million Americans will journey 50 miles or more from home during the Labor Day holiday weekend, mainly due to lower gas prices and a rebounding economy. AFP PHOTO/Mark RALSTON (Photo credit should read MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images)

New data from the University of Southern California (USC) find that 31 of L.A.’s freeways have become progressively slower since 2015.

As part of USC’s Crosstown Data Project, a team of journalists and data scientists examined the average weekday rush-hour speeds on 52 freeway segments across Los Angeles County during the same two-month period over the past four years. Here’s what they found: 31 freeways slowed down, four stayed the same, and 17 showed improved speeds. Along those 31 slower freeways, the speeds on 11 segments dropped 5 mph or more.

These slower speeds can add up to significant time wasted for commuters. Take for example, the I-5 from Santa Clarita to Downtown Los Angeles. In 2015, the morning commute took roughly 46 minutes. This year, those same drivers sat in traffic for one hour. Over a week, that’s an extra 70 minutes spent sitting in your car—and that’s just one way. The return trip to Santa Clarita in the evening doesn’t fare much better. It now takes on average ten minutes longer than it did four years ago. In one month, drivers making that round-trip commute spend roughly 7 hours and 20 minutes more on the road today than they did in 2015.

The United States Census Bureau reports that as of 2017, almost 9% of Americans were “super-commuters,” spending an hour or more to get to work. And a 2018 survey by recruiting firm Robert Half found that 23% of U.S. workers had left a job because of an unmanageable commute.

California’s freeways and major thoroughfares are among the most congested in the nation. According to TRIP, a national transportation research group, traffic congestion costs California residents a total of $28 billion each year in the form of lost time and wasted fuel.

Providing some relief to commuters, 17 of the 52 L.A. County routes analyzed by Crosstown showed improved speeds—and in some cases, that’s the result of public works projects that made a difference. On the I-10 in the morning commute, heading east toward Downtown from Santa Monica, speeds improved from 44 mph in 2015 to 48 mph this year. In that time, several projects, such as converting one lane to a carpool lane, have wrapped up, allowing for less congestion.

SB 1, the Road Repair and Accountability Act of 2017, provides funding for infrastructure programs that help address congestion. SB 1 created the Solutions for Congested Corridors Program (SCCP) to provide $250 million annually for multimodal corridor plans that make performance improvements along the state’s busiest highways to reduce congestion. The goals for these projects include providing more transportation choices for residents, commuters and visitors, and improving traffic flow while improving air quality and addressing environmental/health challenges.

Another SB 1 program, the State-Local Partnership Program (LPP) provides $200 million annually for community solutions to ease congestions on both state and local roads. This program provides matching funds to support the investment that local communities have made in their region through voter-approved transportation tax measures.

Source: Various

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