A new report finds that traffic in Southern California – infamous for its bumper-to-to bumper gridlock – may not be all that bad.
A U.S. Census report released Thursday says the average commute time in the L.A.-Long Beach-Santa Ana area was just over 28 minutes in 2009. That number places the local commute 17th worst in the nation. The New York-New Jersey-Long Island commute took first, with an average travel time of a whopping 34.6 minutes in 2009.
To put that number in perspective, the national average was just over 25 minutes from doorstep to desk.
Speaking on KPCC's Patt Morrison show, Brian D. Taylor, director of the Lewis Center and Institute of Transportation Studies and UCLA said it's important to realize that the average commute incorporates commute times, not only at rush hour, but throughout the day.
“People also commute during other times – they work in the evening, they might work in buildings at night, they work swing shifts things like that. That’s including the entire labor market in the census data, so those numbers are pretty consistent over time,” he said.
David Rizzo, also known as Dr. Roadmanp, and author of “Survive the Drive,” called the numbers “completely poppycock.” He said the records from the Southern California Association of Governance and Commuter Transportation Services estimate the commute time to be 33 minutes to work and 37 minutes on the way home. The average commute, he added, was 17 miles.
While some Southern California residents feel slighted by the numbers, Taylor pointed to the fact that, nationwide, drivers spend most of their time – not in their commute – but running other errands.
“About 15 percent of all trips made are commute trips and about 85 percent are for other purposes,” he said. “Part of it is related to the growth of two-worker households; there are a lot more things that are essentially secured outside the home, so the household-serving travel, we call it, is the fastest growth of trips.”
Rizzo said these errands might contribute to what he says is a longer evening commute, “In the afternoon you do have a lot of extraneous trips; in the morning though, people seems to have a purpose."
Despite long commutes, Taylor said the rise in workers telecommuting and moving closer to work are helping to alleviate traffic.
“As congestion gets worse, people on average start to make adjustments in where they live, where they work, where they socialize, how they travel about, in that space that they operate in can start to shrink,” he said. “So that, over time, the congestion will result in people staying more within their neighborhoods in order not to incur severe commutes.”
Rizzo agreed, “I think as we build more subways, more trains, we will use it.”
Does your commute reflect the numbers? Have you adjusted your life style to circumvent traffic? Is traffic really that bad in L.A. or just a figure of our imagination?
Brian D. Taylor, director of the UCLA Lewis Center and Director, Institute of Transportation Studies, UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs
David Rizzo also known as Dr. Roadmap and author of "Survive the Drive! How to Beat Freeway Traffic in Southern California."
Jeff Baugh, airborne reporter, KNX 1070 News Radio; he has been covering L.A. traffic from the air for 22 years