"Even if all the transportation projects that were promised to be funded by passage of Measure R are built — light rail, bus service, and subway — the traffic congestion would be virtually unchanged," the report said.
Well, that settles it. Might as well shut down the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.
New transit lines may or may not alleviate traffic, depending on how and where they are built; the research on that score is mixed. But the goal of a better light-rail, bus and subway network in Los Angeles is not to make life easier for drivers.
It is to offer new ways to get around a crowded region. And to expand the number of options in a city that has always placed a high value on individual freedom of choice.
And yet the conventional wisdom in Los Angeles, not to mention much of its political and cultural punditry, assumes not just a car-first but a car-only point of view. What good is a Wilshire Boulevard subway, that line of thinking argues, if it does nothing to make life easier for motorists?
The truth is that traffic isn't going to get better. Period. We should stop promising that it will.
Congestion isn't something to reflexively fear, in any case, even in Los Angeles. It is a sign of economic health and a vital urbanism.
In fact, every city Angelenos tend to idolize as a haven for pedestrians and users of mass transit and as a model of vibrant street life — whether it's New York, Shanghai or London — is also "strangled by traffic."
The problem is that drivers continue to think that Los Angeles is somehow special — that we can both pursue the ambitions of a major metropolis and expect politicians to make easing our commutes a top priority.
Maybe it's time to stop measuring new transit initiative and other changes to the city in terms of how they'll affect traffic. And start using traffic to measure how we're doing in other areas.
After all, a Los Angeles with freer-flowing traffic in the future will be a less competitive Los Angeles, a Los Angeles on the losing end of all the economic and education-reform battles the authors of the L.A. 2020 report want us so desperately to win.
The notion that congestion can be a sign of economic well-being is a radical one for many in Los Angeles. It requires turning inside out many of our long-held assumptions about who and what streets are for and how they should be designed.
That's where CicLAvia comes in. At its most basic level it is an opportunity for people to get out of their cars and see the city and its landmarks from a new angle and at a different pace.
But it is also an opportunity to try on a new consciousness for a day — to see how the kingdom of Brobdingnag looks to a Lilliputian, and vice versa.
That kind of basic perspectival shift — changing not just our literal view of the built environment but our intellectual and emotional one — is precisely what L.A. needs at this point in the city's history, as we navigate a slow, difficult transition past car-dominated urbanism.
It promises to pay dividends for Los Angeles that go well beyond the apparent benefits — or delays for drivers — produced by closing a few streets, for a few hours, a few times per year.