LOS ANGELES —
Approaching the world famous La Brea Tar Pits — where prehistoric dinosaurs once got stuck in muck, not traffic — so many people were waiting to turn left into a parking lot that the street became gridlocked for more than two blocks. The numerous synchronized green lights didn't wait for me. But why would they? With the posted speed limit 35 mph, I was only averaging 15.
Still, once the LA County Museum of Art, the high-rise apartments, the headquarters of porn publisher Larry Flynt and the various other Wilshire Boulevard landmarks were in the rear-view mirror, the pace did pick up. So much so that 11 green lights in a row suddenly materialized. That string ended on the edge of downtown, however, when Wilshire simply became clogged with too many cars. It was a non-rush hour jam that demonstrated that, good as synchronization may be, it isn't a magic, traffic-breaking bullet.
Los Angeles Department of Transportation officials agree.
As they stated in a recent report praising the benefits of synchronized signals, "No traffic signal system is capable of 'fixing traffic.'"
If more motor vehicles show up in the years ahead (and there are already more than 7.1 million of them registered in Los Angeles County, a number greater than that of most states), then officials say LA traffic jams will probably get worse.
That's why, said Clinton Quan, an engineering associate with the Department of Transportation, planners are continuing to push people to ride bicycles, take commuter rail lines and other public transportation and move close enough to work that they can walk there.
The city has added three light rail lines in the last seven years and has more planned. Officials also recently approved plans to allow high-rise apartment and condominium buildings along a corridor in Hollywood where a subway connecting the city's West Side to downtown is supposed to go.