Explaining Southern California's economy

405 traffic: A little slower after $1 billion upgrade

Over 35 Million Americans Expected To Travel For Memorial Day Weekend

Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

Traffic is shown creeping along on northbound I-405 in Los Angeles on May 27, 2011. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

Los Angeles's 405 Freeway Closes Completely For Bridge Repair

David McNew/Getty Images

LOS ANGELES, CA: One of the busiest freeways in California, the 405, stood vacant as workers demolished the south side of Mulholland overpass on the freeway during a 53-hour total freeway closure on July 16, 2011. The bridge was demolished as part of a $1 billion project to add carpool lanes and make other improvements along the 405 freeway from Orange County to the city of San Fernando. (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)

Los Angeles Freeway Clears Out Ahead Of Major Repairs

Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

Crews shut down an on ramp to the Interstate 405 on Sepulveda Boluevard in the San Fernando Valley, advising motorists of the shutdown of the freeway to demolish the Mulholland Bridge over Interstate 405 at the Sepulveda Pass on July 15, 2011. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

Los Angeles Freeway Clears Out Ahead Of Major Repairs

Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

Construction workers using heavy machinery begin demolishing the Mulholland Bridge over Interstate 405 at the Sepulveda Pass in the early hours of July 16, 2011 in Los Angeles. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)


Transit agencies spent five years and more than a billion dollars improving a stretch of the 405 freeway, in a massive project that gave us the term "Carmageddon" as crews shut down the freeway to complete upgrades. But now, after opening one of the main achievements - a ten-mile carpool lane - it doesn't appear that traffic is moving any faster during rush hour.  In fact, one study suggests travel times have slowed a bit following all of the construction - by about a minute. 

INRIX, a traffic analysis firm, examined the Northbound 405 between the 10 and 101 freeways, from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.  The study compared travel times from the middle two weeks of September, 2013 (with only a 1.7 mile stretch of the carpool lane open) to the same period this year (with the full 10-mile carpool lane in service for nearly five months.) The average travel time this September was 35 minutes, roughly a minute slower than last September. 

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LA Rent: Having trouble finding an apartment? Here's why

Vacancy Rate For U.S. Apartments Reaches Highest Rate In 20 Years

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Rents are rising, and economists expect them to keep rising, by more than 8 percent in L.A. and Orange County and by 10 percent in the Inland Empire by June of 2016.

In Los Angeles County, the vacancy rate dropped 10.8 percent in the one-year period ending in June, to just 3.3 percent. But that was nothing compared to the the recession-battered Inland Empire, where the number of available rental units plummeted by 30 percent, to a 3.8 percent vacancy rate, according to the 2014 USC Casden Multifamily Forecast from USC's Lusk Center for Real Estate.

Over 7,500 multifamily units were added in L.A. during the same period, which was a 62 percent increase over the year before; but it still wasn't enough to make a significant dent in the number of available apartments. 

With so few units available, it probably won't be a shock to hear rents are rising, and economists expect them to keep rising, by more than 8 percent in L.A. and Orange County and by 10 percent in the Inland Empire by June of 2016.

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Economists say LA's high-tech sector rivals Silicon Valley in providing jobs

Oblong Demo

Brian Watt/KPCC

A demo at Oblong Industries, which employs 75 people in downtown LA's Arts District. Oblong makes collaborative computer interfaces. Its CEO, John Underkoffler designed the computer interfaces seen in the movie "Minority Report".

A report released Monday says Los Angeles County now has more high-tech sector jobs than other well-known tech centers, including Santa Clara County (the heart of Silicon Valley), the Boston-Cambridge area, and the five boroughs of New York City. 

The Los Angeles County Economic Development Corporation (LAEDC) Institute for Applied Economics authored the report, with sponsorship from JPMorgan Chase.  It says that in 2013, the high-tech sector employed 368, 580 people in Los Angeles County.  Another 104,680 people were performing high-tech duties for companies outside the high-tech sector.

The jobs come from a wide range of industries, including aerospace, bio-pharmaceuticals, medical devices, consulting and software publishing.  "We (Los Angeles County) have a whole range of industries that are associated with high-tech," said LAEDC Vice President Christine Cooper, the study's lead author  "So it's not surprising to see that this a very large sector in our economy," Cooper told KPCC.  

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LA County report: More people finding good jobs in a growing economy

job seekers have their resumes reviewed at a job fair expo in Anaheim, Calif., in June 2012.

Jae C. Hong/AP

Job seekers have their resumes reviewed at a job fair expo in Anaheim, Calif.

Fewer Angelenos are unemployed today than one year ago, and many are earning more and spending more.  That is the conclusion of a regional forecast released Wednesday from Beacon Economics.

The regional forecast says from July 2013 to July 2014, the number of unemployed people in Los Angeles County fell 18.6 percent, from 490,300 to 399,000. The unemployment rate in the County fell during the same period, from 10.0 percent to 8.1 percent.  "Overall, Beacon Economics is forecasting employment levels in Los Angeles County to return to their pre-recession peak by the middle of 2o15," the report says.

Many local residents have been able to find work in high-paying sectors like Information,  Professional and Business Services, Education and Health Care, according to the report, which estimates per capita income in LA County grew nearly 1.8 percent from early last year to early this year.  

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CityLab 2014: The sharing economy takes center stage in LA

CityLab 2014

Ben Bergman/KPCC

From left to right: Ronald Brownstein, Editorial Director, Atlantic Media; Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed; and Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre speak on a panel about immigration at CityLab 2014.

Over the last three days, hundreds of leaders from cities around the world have converged in Los Angeles to share ideas at the CityLab: Urban Solutions to Global Challenges conference.

The event attracted mayors from as far away as Israel and Greece and as nearby as Los Angeles and Santa Monica.

Atlanta’s Mayor, Kasim Reed, spoke about how his city has opened its doors to immigrants. Like most speakers at the program, he believes cities are where all the action is these days.

“I tell people if you don’t want to spend your whole life changing the world, come work in cities,” Reed told a lunchtime audience Tuesday. “We know our country’s GDP, 70 percent-plus is in cities and we know our population centers, 70 percent plus are in metros.”

It has been just a year since the first CityLab conference was held in New York, but much has changed since then, said April Rinne, whose title is Sharable Cities Advisor.

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