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Measure M promises 15 percent less traffic — by 2057




Traffic on the 101
Traffic on the 101
David McNew/Getty Images

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What would you do with an extra 10 minutes before driving to work each morning? Would you sleep in? Cook breakfast? Watch YouTube?

The gift of 10 minutes back for every hour’s commute by car is one of Measure M’s biggest promises. It’s supposed to reduce L.A. traffic by 15 percent.

"When certain projects are completed, some people will notice improvement right away and some not so much," said Pauletta Tonilas, chief communications officer for Metro.

Anyone who’s lived in L.A. for the last decade has personally experienced traffic getting worse. If you do a lot of screaming and pounding on the steering wheel now, just wait. Congestion is expected to double over the next 20 years as population here grows.

And Metro’s projections for traffic relief will mostly be felt by those driving in the areas where Measure M projects will be built — once they’re built. Over the span of 40 years.

"Currently we have about 10 million people," Tonilas said. "By 2057, we'll have 12.4 million."

Others predict the growth will be even faster. Bloomberg projects that just nine years from now, L.A. will be the most crowded city in the country with almost 16 million people.

All those new people mean millions of new cars on the roads — unless transit or some other mobility product presents a better solution.

As the great automotive sage Jay Leno likes to say, for a technology to succeed, it has to be better than what currently exists. And it’s pretty hard to beat a car when it comes to convenience, cost and expediency.

For the month of October, I've parked my car and vowed not to use it. Instead, I've mostly been taking Metro.

My first de-carified working day was pretty routine, except I wasn’t using my car.

My first order of business was a 9:30 a.m. interview with an executive from Ford Motor Co. He was at the Universal City Hilton. I live in Highland Park, 13 miles away. According to the travel-planning app, Go LA, I’d need to take two trains and walk the last half mile to get there by Metro.

Driving would have taken 21 minutes, according to the app. Metro: An hour and 8 minutes.

On the up side, the ride was just $1.75 compared with $4.60 if I’d driven — plus $28 for hotel parking.

But the last part of my trip involved a long walk uphill in heels on a hot morning, so I was a little sweaty when I arrived just in the nick of time.

"Your experiment is very telling because people are looking for choices for how to get around in cities like L.A. where it's congested," said Ken Washington, Ford's vice president of research and advanced engineering. "Commutes are long... so people are wanting to use different techniques, like you. You’re doing this experiment trying to get around without using your car, but it’s probably hard today."

It is. Two days after my trek to Universal City, I had to get to a press conference at the Petersen Automotive Museum, which started at 11.  Again, I had to take two trains, only this time the final leg was by bus. Total trip length: 1 hour and 21 minutes — more than three times as long as it would take by car.

And when the press conference was over, I had to do it in reverse and take the train even further — to KPCC in Pasadena for a meeting— then catch a bus for Silver Lake to pick up my son after school then hitch one last ride to get home.

What I'm finding is that I can get everywhere I need to get using Metro because the system is so well mapped. It’s just time consuming. Going everywhere I need to go usually takes two to three times longer than a car.

And that brings me back to Metro’s promise of 15 percent less traffic if Measure M is voted in. The only way that seems possible is if the people who currently have cars are convinced to get rid of them or to use them a whole lot less. And that’s already happening. It just hasn’t happened enough to make a significant difference.

Yes, Metro says weekday ridership on the new Expo Line has increased 42 percent since it opened in May.  And it says two-thirds of riders on the recently opened Gold Line extension to Azusa are now taking the train instead of driving.

But that’s pretty cold comfort to drivers stuck in gridlock on the 5, the 101, the 210, the 405, the 605 or the 710.