On May 12, back when the price of gasoline was only like a tenth of what it is now, the L.A. Times reported that traffic on some area roads had been getting lighter. The Times cited evidence from the Freeway Performance Measurement System put together by UC Berkeley with the help of CalTrans and others. I took a look at the information publicly available on the FPMS website. While this information is not that easy to digest, current Los Angeles area traffic looks to me like a mixed bag. For example, this page appears to show traffic data for Los Angeles and Ventura Counties during the hours of 5 a.m. to 10 a.m. The capsule at the bottom of the page purports to indicate various commuter routes, and the time time it took to drive such routes in May 2007 and May 2008, departing at 8 a.m. It looks like 4 out of 8 routes experienced a decline in drive time this year compared to last year, but the other 4 routes had an increase, sometimes a very large one. The evening commute page (5 p.m. departure) looks better, with 7 out of 8 routes experiencing a drive time decline this year compared to last year.
Therefore, I have been running a
scientific survey completely un-scientific poll of my own, asking local friends for anecdotal evidence on the traffic in and around L.A. The consensus seems to be that traffic has recently gotten lighter. One friend works in a building overlooking the 405, and she says she has definitely noticed a change.
Of course, even if traffic in the Los Angeles area is lighter at the moment, that could be the result of other factors besides the price of gasoline. As the Times pointed out, we’re in an economic downturn, and unemployment is up. That means less people working, and less people likely driving to work. Also, school has ended and the summer has begun for many area residents during the past couple of weeks, so some commuters may be off the city’s roads and on vacation.
What do you think? Is the high cost of gasoline ironically causing one of the most painful aspects about living in L.A. to be getting a little bit better? And if so, are you contributing to the change?