Zachary Berry
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California Traffic Projected to Become Even More Congested as More Residents Buy New Vehicles

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An increasing number of vehicles per household is adding to the already heavy traffic that the Golden State experiences

Get ready to see even more of this, California
Photo: Jeff Turner

Even if you don’t live in the state of California, you probably still know all about how awful traffic can be throughout the Golden State. Freeways near cities like Los Angeles and San Francisco are constantly bumper-to-bumper, and they reach nightmare levels of crowding during rush hour.

The traffic has gotten so bad that L.A. residents actually voted to tax themselves at an increasing rate in the hopes of reducing commuter congestion in the area. That tax, which was approved by nearly 70% of voters, will help raise $120 billion for public transportation during the next 40 years.

Nevertheless, local traffic is only projected to grow worse in the near future. The reason for this trend? California residents are buying more cars and using public transportation less.

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Despite this upcoming $120 billion investment in L.A.’s public transportation system, use of those utilities are way down. The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority recently reported that ridership fell to its lowest level in eight years during 2017.

Furthermore, a report from the Institute of Transportation Studies at the University of California found that 77% of L.A. residents rarely or never use the metropolitan area’s public transit systems. It’s not just the city’s buses either; ridership is down for L.A.’s subways and light rail systems as well.

L.A. residents just don’t seem to be big fans of public transportation

This decline in ridership can be attributed to a number of factors, including the rise of ride-share companies like Uber and Lyft. However, the biggest factor of all is that California residents are buying more and more vehicles.

Between 2000 and 2015, private vehicle ownership in the L.A. area increased from 1.7 vehicles per household to 2.4 vehicles per household. What’s more, car ownership grew fastest among those with low incomes, the most likely group to use public transportation.

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“Transit today relies on a high rate of use by a narrow base of people,” the University of California report notes. “But if that narrow base of people is acquiring vehicles, transit’s healthy future lies in reversing those circumstances, and striving for at least a low rate of use by a broad base of people.”

This phenomenon is not limited to just L.A., as other large cities in the Golden State, like San Francisco and San Diego, are currently experiencing similar trends. Until California residents reduce the number of cars they buy, traffic will only grow more crowded for California commuters.

On the bright side, they can always recreate the opening scene from La La Land:

News Source: The New York Times (subscription required)