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Saturday, February 16, 2008


To Left Or Not To Left ...

Yesterday I posted an essay on LA Observed's Native Intelligence blog regarding the latest news on the one-way plan for W. Pico and W. Olympic boulevards here in Los Angeles. In that post, I opined (in far too few words) that fewer left turns could result from the effort to favor westbound traffic on W. Olympic Boulevard and eastbound traffic on W. Pico Boulevard.

Here's how:
I've written about traffic issues many times during the past 15 years, and was often told by planners and engineers that traffic snarls are created any number of ways, but that one of the primary causes is the left-hand turn. So, if you increase the left-turn time for one side of the street and not the other, you should improve the flow on only the favored side.

Another way to achieve favor would be to eliminate, or restrict, left-hand turns for vehicles traveling in the unfavorable direction, which, I would guess, engineers might consider for both Pico and Olympic. The back-up that could result in the absence of elimination or restriction isn't hard to imagine, but that's kind of the point, isn't it? A disincentive to use one street emphasizes the incentive to use the other.

But in some situations, no matter what you do, it seems the problem will be moved rather than solved.

For example, westbound Pico Blvd to southbound Overland Ave is the most direct route to the Santa Monica Freeway for office workers in Century City. At present, the completion of a left-hand turn at rush hour from westbound Pico to southbound Overland often requires enough time and patience to sit through a couple signal cycles. But if Pico is pinched down to two westbound lanes, yet provides no additional time for left-hand turns, the back-up can only get worse, and would likely spill out of the turn lane, blocking the flow of one of the two westbound lanes.

Eliminate the left turn on Pico and drivers would surely choose westbound Olympic to access southbound Overland in order to reach the freeway. Do nothing, and many drivers are likely to do the same thing if only because LA drivers are conditioned to seek faster routes. Under either scenario, the result will be another nightmarish snarl when all those freeway-bound drivers on westbound Olympic join freeway-bound drivers from Santa Monica Blvd on "Little Overland," which runs bumper-to-bumper between Santa Monica and Pico boulevards. They call this portion of Overland "Little Overland" because it's a slim residential street with one lane running in each direction, plus the added pressure of a public grade school and no fewer than three stop signs along the way.

From there, it's not unreasonable to assume that a few dozen rat runners will spill onto nearby residential streets and gum those up too.

That's just one example.

Of course, I'm not a traffic engineer. I just drive.

— TJ Sullivan in LA
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