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Traffic Solutions Courtesy of Lyft
Traffic congestion in big cities is such a hot button issue these days, with so many people and organizations weighing in on the best way to alleviate the daily strain on commuters. We’ve heard about Elon Musk’s hypothetical underground tunnels and we’ve considered the benefits (and drawbacks) of ride-sharing services, but there has yet to be a clear cut long-term solution for the traffic crisis in America…until now…maybe. A newly announced plan created by ride-sharing giant, Lyft, in collaboration with transportation experts may just be the answer we’ve been seeking, but the idea actually sounds a bit counter intuitive. Instead of adding more lanes to congestion-prone locations, the plan is to actually reduce the number of lanes, and instead build up the urban appeal with wider sidewalks, more foliage, upgrade landscaping, and benches for seating. The goal is to make driving a vehicle less appealing, and promote taking public transportation.
Lyft, along with architecture firm, Perkins+Will, and transportation consultants, Nelson/Nygaard, is currently using Wilshire Blvd. in Los Angeles as a model, showing what could happen if they greatly scaled down the 10 vehicle lanes in that particular car-centric area. Imagine trees, protected bike lanes, a loading zone for rideshare vehicles, exclusive bus lanes, and just three narrowed lanes for vehicles. By creating a welcoming and safe environment, individuals are more likely to utilize public transportation. This could greatly increase the chance of Los Angeles completing the goals outlined in their mobility plan. The Mobility Plan would require half of all trips be made via public transportation, biking, or walking by 2035.
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As depicted in the image above, Wilshire Blvd. is currently equipped to service nearly 30,000 people per hour using it’s current lane model. This may sound like a lot, but in the grand scheme of things, it is not nearly enough to be functional, especially considering the majority of LA drivers attempting to use this street is extremely impacted during traditional commuter hours. The idea that reducing the number of lanes could in any way, shape, or form be beneficial seems like a bit of stretch. The below image actually shows the potential of the future design concept, and if it is to be believe, then the number of people being serviced would more than double. Of course, at this point in time, it is all just speculation.
Currently, in Los Angeles, 68% of people drive alone, and it takes 10 times as much road space to move a car versus any other form of transportation. Carpooling can help with the traffic crisis, but until people are given true incentive to use other modes of transport, ridesharing alone can’t be a solution in itself. Lyft has also expressed interest in the introduction of congestion pricing, an already implemented approach used in some European cities. The premise behind congestion pricing is that if you charge consumers for using public goods, in this case, roads, during periods of excess demand, they will be more likely to find alternate options. Similar protocol has actually been implemented in parts of Southern California and even in various locales in other areas of the United States, specifically on congested freeways. In these limited test runs, it does seem to help aid the traffic issues, but it has sparked criticism. One can hope that by coupling this method, with the ambitious concepts created by Lyft and partners, traffic problems plaguing the nation may meet their demise in the near future.