Are L.A. Gas Prices Reducing L.A.’s Traffic?

We all know that the price of gasoline in the Los Angeles area is approaching the price of blood and Cristal champagne. Is the price of gas finally having an effect on our traffic? Possibly.

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? 

8 thoughts on “Are L.A. Gas Prices Reducing L.A.’s Traffic?”

  1. I’m excited about the days I can cruise the streets of LA on either side of the yellow line because gas has gotten so expensive that I’ll be the only person on the roads. What’ll that take, gas at $100/gallon?

    I admit, it might not be in my future. Also, I have no valid explanation as to how I will be able to afford gas, but a guy can dream…

  2. Rumors — your fantasy sounds like the movie “Mad Max” and its sequels. The “juice” is all but gone, and so are “the last of the V-8 Interceptors.”

  3. Fueling up at Valero in Silver Lake just cost me $75 half an hour ago. $75.00.

    Hydrogen cars ain’t gonna cure this problem any more than vegetable oil will.

    Someone out there has better technology in mind, if not in hand, and it’s time they brought it to market.

    Until then, biking is your best transportation value – unless you’re a parent trying to get your kids to a soccer game or bring home a household’s worth of groceries, in which case you’ll need to make separate trips.

  4. Well traffic is lighter. How can I tell the amount of cars in either morning or afternoon crush has less bleeding off onto side streets around here.

    I am also seeing way more bicycles in the morning. Several haven’t figured out too well exactly what they can and can’t do. IE you don’t pass on the right making a left turn across 2 lanes of traffic from the curb. Guy nearly got creamed. The not stopping for lights is going to get someone killed really fast. BUT…overall the two are blending fairly well so far in my corner of LA.

    We filled my wife’s car last night and it was $70, in ’01 when we bought it we could never squeeze more than 19 in. Sad to see was that is more than what she would go through in the past. I guess if its any consolation the EU is having equally tough time with the increases and they had good public transit to start with.

    I’m just glad my commute is from my back door down 3 steps and 15 feet. I wonder if this may finally get employers to look seriously at telecommuting on a bigger scale?

  5. Why do people in the LA area (specifically Pasadena) fear taking buses but not trains?

    Is it because the dirty homeless person enforcement on the Gold Line is far higher than, say, on the 180 or 181?

    I’ve been taking the bus for years. I don’t own a car. When I first moved to LA, everyone laughed at me. Now people are amazed that I only spend $22 a month…that’s two packs of bus tokens every two weeks…to get back and forth to work. Plus, once in a while, the bus is so screwed up, they can’t take money or tokens – so I save one.

    The bus isn’t that bad. If more normal peeps started taking it, I’m sure it would be a lot better. (More complaints usually means more customer service usually meaning a better bus system).

    – AP

  6. When I got on the Red Line at Metro Center last Friday (around 6pm) the train was filled to capacity and had to leave some people behind to wait for the next one. Capacity!! That’s major, in my opinion.

  7. I looked into bus schedules between home (Burbank) and work (Pasadena). Looks like I’d have to take 3 different buses for over 90 minutes to go 12


  8. I used to work in Burbank (I live in Pasadena) and – yeah – it takes like 3 hours sometimes to get between the two on the I agree.

    I’m just sayin’ – the bus is good to take if you only have to go like…5 miles or something. A lot of people who live in East Pasadena work in Old Town/Downtown Pasadena…but I have been seeing the same amount of people on the bus as when gas was $3.00.

    – AP

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