Now in his third year as mayor of the 2nd-largest city in the United States, the 44-year-old Democratic Eric Garcetti has said he wants to turn Los Angeles into the first postmodern city.
Garcetti has made a series of proposals over the last year to reduce the role of the automobile in the city’s transportation network. Garcetti wants to beat the city’s infamous gridlock by getting more Angelos to walk, cycle and use public transportation.
Traffic is worsening nationwide, and other mayors across the country are looking to Garcetti for examples and ideas about how to tackle the growing gridlock. According to Inrix, a company that analyzes traffic patterns, the nation’s worst commutes are in the Washington, D.C., area. Commuters in the nation’s capital spend an average of 82 hours stuck in traffic stuck in traffic.
The Los Angeles area ranks second in the nation for gridlock with Angelenos spending an average of 80 hours stuck in traffic jams per year. San Francisco and New York rank third and fourth, with residents spending 78 and 74 hours in traffic per year. Another study by the American Highways Users Alliance located the nation’s worst bottleneck on a stretch of Interstate 90 that passes through Chicago. Many of the top 10 worst bottlenecks are predictably located in Los Angeles County.
Gridlock comes with a cost. Inrix estimates that the nation’s economy loses $160 billion per year in delays and fuel costs, more than the GDP of Hungary. Collectively, American commuters spend 6.9 billion hours stuck in traffic, more than the time it would take to drive to Pluto.
The core of Garcetti’s plan to defeat traffic in Los Angeles is the so-called Mobility Plan 2035, released last summer. The Mobility Plan calls for hundreds of miles of new bus-only lanes, protected bike lanes, as well as improvements to sidewalks and streetscapes in neighborhoods with lots of pedestrians. Critics of the plan such as the activist group Fix The City say that removing car lanes to make way for buses and bicyclists could actually increase congestion. The plan targets about 10% of the city’s major thoroughfares for lane reductions.
Also included in Garcetti’s panoply of solutions is Vision Zero, an initiative to eliminate traffic fatalities modeled after a similar program pioneered in Stockholm, Sweden. There are also the Great Streets, Complete Streets and People Street programs, all designed to reduce automobile use and encourage Angelenos to walk and bike more. Garcetti is putting his political career on the line with his campaign to turn Los Angeles, a city famously unfriendly to pedestrians, into a haven for bike paths and boardwalks.
On top of street improvements, Garcetti has started a campaign for Los Angeles to host the 2024 Summer Olympics. Improvements to infrastructure will certainly help the city’s chances of winning its Olympic bid, while the bid could help generate funds for the infrastructure plan.
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