Tag Archives: Venice

Westside Traffic, Peak Period Edition

A commenter on this post on Westside traffic asked if peak hour data might show different patterns, so I created similar graphics for the same roadways using the same data (Caltrans publishes peak hour, peak month, and yearly average traffic).

I’ll let the graphics speak for themselves. The peak hour patterns are quite similar to the total volume patterns, including the structural changes on the 405 and Venice coinciding with completion of the freeway widening project between the 90 and the 10. It’s actually a little surprising to see so much of a change in peak hour volumes – I would have guessed that changes in total volumes would be reflected in a shorter peak, leaving the peak hour itself relatively unchanged, rather than a more uniform change. These facilities are all near capacity, so if more cars enter the systems, peak volumes can only go up so much, and the increase would be expressed as a longer peak period and greater total delay.

I’ve put the daily volumes & peak volumes side by side so you can easily compare. Note that the y-scales are necessarily quite different. As always, click to embiggen.

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Is Westside Traffic Really Getting Worse?

Recently, the LA Times has published some articles positing that as freeway traffic gets worse, people have started using smart phone apps like Waze to try to avoid it, causing worsening congestion on neighborhood streets. The problem is that you can’t trust people’s perceptions of traffic. Traffic, like behavior of teenagers, is almost always perceived to be getting worse, data be damned.

Since Caltrans publishes freeway traffic counts going back to 2002, we can take a look at the evolution of Westside freeway traffic leading up to the last economic peak, the crash, and the current period of growth. Here’s a plot of traffic on the 10 between Lincoln and Vermont, from 2002 to 2013.

How to read: traffic volume is the vertical component. Time represented on the diagonal from top left to bottom right. The location on the freeway is represented west to east on the diagonal from bottom left to top right. So, if you follow a diagonal line from bottom left to top right, you’re seeing traffic volume on the freeway build as you head towards downtown. If you follow a diagonal line from top left to bottom right, you’re seeing how traffic has changed over time at a particular point on the freeway.

For example, following the diagonal for 2013, we can see that traffic is below 250,000 vehicles per day from Overland west, and above 250,000 vehicles per day from National east (where the line leaves the green area and enters the yellow band). Following the diagonal for Vermont, we can see that traffic volumes were above 325,000 at Vermont from 2002 to 2006, then between 300,000 and 325,000 from 2007 to 2011, and then back above 325,000 from 2012 to 2013.

If these graphics don’t make sense, there are some simpler line graphs at the bottom of the post showing the same freeways for years 2002, 2007, and 2013.

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What can we see? Traffic declined across the whole freeway from Santa Monica to downtown LA as a result of the recession. West of La Brea, traffic volumes have not recovered or have declined even further, though east of there, traffic has started to recover. No boom in traffic on the Westside on the 10.

Here’s the 405 between the 90 and Mulholland (Sepulveda Pass). Information is the same, but the rotation is a little different to better show different patterns. I left the interchange with the 10 off the plot because it made a large, confusing dip between Olympic and Santa Monica.

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From Wilshire to Sepulveda Pass, traffic volumes on the 405 haven’t increased noticeably either. There has, however, been a large increase in traffic between the 90 and Santa Monica since 2007. This correlates to both the economic recovery and the project that widened the freeway between the 90 and the 10 (induced/latent demand is real!).

Since some Westside arterials are still Caltrans-numbered routes (Lincoln, Santa Monica, and Venice) we can also look at trends on those facilities. Here’s Lincoln from the 90 to the 10.

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From the 90 to Washington, traffic volumes fell in the recession and have not yet recovered to previous peaks. The stunning thing here is the drop of 10,000+ vehicles per day between Venice and the 10 freeway. It seems possible that the completion of the widening project on the 405 shifted some traffic from Lincoln to the freeway.

Further evidence for that conjecture comes from Venice between Lincoln and La Cienega.

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Roughly coinciding with completion of the freeway project, Venice saw a considerable increase in traffic in the vicinity of the freeway and points east.

Lastly, here’s Santa Monica.

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Nothing really jumps out here. Traffic declined during the recession, and consistent with national experience, has not recovered to previous peaks.

There’s no clear pattern of increasing traffic on these roads, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the story about worsening traffic on side streets is wrong. Technology like Google Maps and Waze makes information about the road network more accessible, and it’s certainly possible freeway and arterial traffic growth has been muted by people using the side streets. The city’s traffic data is also available through the Navigate LA website; maybe some enterprising person with programming skills can figure out a way to pull it out! Either way, it’s apparent there have been some shifts in traffic patterns, which we’d expect to make congestion worse in some places.

Note: 2009 data was missing, so I made it the average of 2008 and 2010.

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‘Round Palms: I <3 Dingbats

Next up in my Tour d’Palms is Clarington Av, which runs from Venice to National two blocks west of Hughes Av. Clarington is a little more heavily traveled than many of the residential streets in Palms, I think because it distributes/collects a fair amount of neighborhood traffic, and connects Palms to downtown Culver City. Probably partly as a result, almost all of Clarington has been redeveloped to apartment buildings, though a few SFRs are still around. You might want to open up an aerial map in another window and follow along to get an appreciation for the variety of building size and type. Without further ado:

At Clarington and Venice, we have an absolutely classic LA scene. With Sony Pictures Entertainment in the background, we have a 1985 strip mall on the left offering a mini world tour (Miyako Sushi, Villa Tacos, Giovanni’s Trattoria, Mama’s Indian, Thai BBQ, a convenience store that is somehow related to Myanmar, plus a party store and a nail salon for good measure). On the right is a generic four-story office building, also dating to 1985. It’s been vacant for a while, but the “for lease” sign recently came down and they’ve started painting the exterior.

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On the opposite side of Venice is an upscale Thai restaurant and a Smart ‘n Final Extra.

North of that and across the street are two large apartment buildings (built 1982, left and 2006, right).

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Then, we have this long, skinny dingbat, built 1963.

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Across the street, there’s a 1964 dingbat that’s one of my personal favorites.

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I like it because it looks like a giant whale straining cars through its baleen.

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Just past that, there’s an old-school SFR from 1963 with an auxiliary apartment building attached at the back. When I moved to Palms, I looked at an apartment here. It was very affordable, and the building is managed by a nice family that lives in the SFR portion of the structure. Traditionally, this is how home ownership translated into wealth for low-income and mid-income families: the ability to rent out rooms or apartments. This is a much more logical and sustainable way to build wealth than depending on never-ending house price increases.

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North of that building, there’s a three-story apartment and two-story apartment, built 2008 and 1964.

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At the corner of Clarington and Regent, a two-story building and a five-story building, built 1958 and 2011.

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Between Regent and Tabor, you’re pretty much in dingbat heaven. From Venice to Regent, many of the buildings have larger footprints, but on this block, most of them are single lot dingbats. From left to right, built 1962, 1965, 1987, an original SFR from 1922 hiding in the trees, and 1974.

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This building, from 1988, has siding instead of stucco – a dead giveaway it’s a Century West property.

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Here’s that 1922 SFR, looking fine next the a two-story apartment from 1974.

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A typical single lot dingbat from 1963.

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This model comes in blue or yellow, built 1967.

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Another Century West property (1988) and a modern-style building (1990).

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From the pink stucco to the floating faux rock wall, nothing says 1972 like this dingbat at the corner of Clarington and Tabor. The designer of this thing should get a Pritzker just to teach architects a little humility 😉

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Direct to you from the City of Lights, 50 years ago.

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Between yet another Century West property (1988) and a 2002 double-lot apartment building, we find a couple of charming SFRs from 1917 and 1930.

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On the north side of Palms, there’s three buildings on the west side of Clarington, with considerable variability in size and age (from left to right, 1988, 1963, and 1946). (Note: the 1946 building was recently demolished to make way for an Expo Line traction power substation, I think.)

On the east, two buildings, from 2000 (left) and 1951 (right).

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So on the short block between Palms and Exposition, we have five different decades represented. Between Venice and Exposition, every decade for the last 100 years is present. The variety of building types, ages, and sizes provides a range of accommodations and creates neighborhood diversity. History hasn’t been disrespected; quite the opposite, history has been honored by allowing the city to continue to grow and create opportunity for more people.

If we want Los Angeles to keep growing, stay diverse, and get more affordable, we need to allow more streets like Clarington to grow organically in more neighborhoods in the city.