Current Events Economics - General

How to fix L.A. traffic

As a resident of Southern California for the last 3 years, I have gained intimate knowledge of the price of perfect weather: traffic.  How do you fix traffic in a “a sprawling mid-density city” such as Los Angeles or San Diego?  This Sunday’s L.A. Times (“How to fix traffic”) gives some suggestions that most economists would agree with.

  • End the MTA’s monopoly: The Metropolitan Transportation Authority has a “virtual monopoly” on public transportation in the Los Angeles area.  Monopolies always raise prices and reduce choices.
  • Increase parking meter rates: Pricing metered, on-street parking spaces at a significant discount compared to parking lot prices gives drivers the incentive to cruise around the city looking for these discounted meters.  This increases traffic and creates more pollution in the city.
  • Creating a better bus system: Make it easier to ride the bus by creating more connecting services
  • Turn carpool lanes into toll lanes: An article in Friday’s L.A. Times (“State’s drivers…“) shows that despite an increase in the number of drivers and the number of cars on California’s roads, the amount of gasoline used between 2005 and 2006 actually declined due to the increase price of gas.  If high volume freeways had toll lanes—where the fare could vary depending on whether or not it was rush hour—it is likely that traffic would drop.  In London, commuters pay a tax of $16 in order to drive in the city during rush hour; this initiative has significantly reduced traffic.

The article even has a catchy ending: “If L.A. is to continue growing, Angelenos do have a choice: They can pay more time in traffic delays on free roads, or they can pay more in tolls to avoid traffic. But either way, it’s gonna cost them.”