Officials at Metro and the California Department of Transportation, the bureaucracies behind the $1 billion 405 improvement project that wrapped a few months ago, just received an unwelcome gift: a study that found traffic is actually worse now that the freeway is outfitted with new bridges, on- and off-ramps, and a northbound carpool lane.
Traffic analysis firm INRIX conducted the study, which looked at rush-hour speeds on the notorious freeway during September 2013–when only 1.7 miles of the carpool lane were completed–and last month, when the entire 10 mile high-occupancy vehicle lane was operating for 10 miles between the 10 and 101 freeways. During the onset and apex of rush-hour, between 4 p.m. and 7 p.m., traffic is now worse; on average, it look a minute longer to get from West L.A. to Sherman Oaks. There was one bright spot: congestion at 7 p.m., the tail end of rush-hour, was reduced significantly, with four to five minutes of drive-time shaved off.
Regardless, the news was greeted with many shaking heads and rolled eyes, especially the people clamoring for a light-rail or subway option through the Sepulveda Pass (one is coming, sometime in the 2030s; in the meantime, a new express bus debuts over the Pass in December). A director at INRIX, Jim Bak, remains supportive of the 405’s carpool lane and other upgrades, saying they weren’t failures; in fact, the traffic increase is most likely result of a strengthening economy. Throughout the nation, congestion is growing at three times the gross domestic project.
“When our economy recovers, I like to say, ‘as GDP goes up, MPH goes down,'” Bak told KPCC, adding that without the 405 project, the commute would be even worse. We shudder to think.