It is rare that I am in rush hour traffic, but I found myself driving back from Santa Monica at about 3:30 one recent afternoon. The 10 was already jammed when I tried to get on at Lincoln, so I decided to take Pico all the way instead.
I went a few blocks and was suddenly in gridlock traffic. As I crept along, sometimes sitting at the same traffic light for several cycles, I noticed something very interesting — the traffic lights were not synced, and that is what was causing all of the traffic.
Traffic is something you have to accept to live in Los Angeles, but when it is traffic that is caused by faulty transportation decisions, well, that is unacceptable.
Let me illustrate. I was sitting at a traffic light (light number three for our purposes). The light turned green. I started moving. Then the light ahead of me turned green (light number two). But the light ahead of that one (light number one) remained red. So of course the cars just got backed up at that light and beyond, unable to proceed.
The way it should work is that light number one turns green, so traffic can move. Then two, then three. This way the cars in the rear have a place to go.
The light that was out of sync the most was the one at Cloverfield. How do I know this? Because once I got past Cloverfield the traffic was gone! I cruised along just fine after that (there were bottlenecks at the 10 and 405 intersections, but that’s to be expected).
I know this was Santa Monica, but the same thing happens all over Los Angeles. One of the worst spots I have seen is on 6th Street, east of Western. I am sitting at a red light at Western, and right when it turns green the light just one block ahead turns red for some reason. It happens every time. It is like that all the way to Vermont (I usually turn off before I get frustrated).
Basically, it should be green lights for as far as the eye can see or red lights for as far as the eye can see. A red light in the middle of green lights just bottles everything up.
It is a simple solution — just sync the damn lights. We have enough traffic in this city; we don’t need man-made traffic as well.