Tired of LAX Traffic Congestion? Good. Here’s the Solution.

Attention Los Angelenos: Does your commute to and from LAX Airport look like this?

Exactly. Traffic congestion is a problem nearly every major city faces. Los Angeles also happens to be one of the worst in the nation. For LAX travelers, driving the I405 and the I105 are the most head-aching, face-palming, top-of-the-lungs-screaming commutes you will ever make in your life. Just how bad are they? The American Highway Users Alliance estimates an Annual Total Delay of 13,400,000 hours resulting in an Annual Lost Value of Time of $360,000,000 for all drivers along these freeways. Bad, right?

Here lies the solution: Active Traffic Management

Active Traffic Management (ATM) is a creative method aimed at increasing peak highway capacity and facilitating traffic flow. By utilizing advanced technologies and extensive traffic data, ATM principles allow cities to maximize their existing roads without having to construct additional lanes. In other words, ATM strategies are a systematic upgrade to the current electronic display signs on highways. Unlike traditional display signs, ATM systems alert drivers of delays, unexpected road conditions, and emergency warnings ahead in real time. The different methods include varying speed limits, opening shoulder lanes, and suggesting alternative routes to decrease traffic congestion on a given road and optimize the driving experience.

Since the early 1980s, Europe has been at the forefront of Active Traffic Management implementation. England’s Highways Agency employed the ATM strategy, Dynamic Shoulder Use — the temporary opening and closing of the shoulder lane in response to congestion or unexpected road conditions. The agency found that overall travel time decreased by 26% and travel time reliability increased by 34%!

Dynamic Shoulder Use (Rendering Courtesy of Robert Smith)

In the United States, Active Traffic Management implementation is in its infant stages — with only a handful of cities (Chicago, D.C., Minneapolis) experimenting with ATM on a localized, 1–2-mile scale. For these cities, ATM is proving successful at traffic flow optimization — at a third of the cost to build new highway lanes.

You know what’s scary about commuting in the City of Angels? 6 of the 7 most congested highways in the United States are in Los Angeles. Is our city not the perfect candidate for Active Traffic Management implementation?

Let’s start with the I405 and the I105. Last year alone, LAX served a record 80 million air travelers — and this number is expected to grow to 100 million by 2040. On a busy day, these freeways service 90,000–110,000 of the most stressed-out, road-raging drivers in the nation. Additionally, with the ongoing construction of the Los Angeles Ram’s Stadium in the neighboring town of Inglewood, why don’t we throw tens of thousands of amped up football fans into the standstill traffic mix? Hot dogs will be thrown. But wait, it doesn’t stop there. Let’s not forget about Los Angeles’ 2024 Olympic bid in place. How will LAX’s I405, I105, and almost every other street in LA deal with the massive influx of tourists, athletes, and cell phone thieves all trying to get to the games? No one will get to where they need on time.

Dynamic Shoulder Use is a great first step for Active Traffic Management deployment in Los Angeles. Just like in England, electronic display signals will indicate when the shoulder lane is open for use. The shoulder will open based upon predicted and prevailing traffic conditions and during peak rush hours. With several miles of available shoulder lanes along these LAX corridors, the additional lane will certainly get traffic moving again.

The fact of the matter is our traffic problem will not solve itself. Luckily, there exists a solution with a proven track record of success in equally congested cities worldwide. It’s time Los Angeles be active about our traffic management.

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