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Los Angeles's Expo Line Did Not Magically Fix Freeway Traffic

The Expo Line between Downtown Los Angeles and Culver City (and soon Santa Monica) is surpassing ridership projection numbers, but it hasn't taken a bite out of traffic on the nearby 10 Freeway, a new study says. The findings shouldn't be all that surprising—how can one transit project be expected to solve the mess that is the 10 at rush hour?—but the LA Times says that the study's results should cause officials to "rethink the way they market such transit investments to the public," since touting them as traffic solutions sort of sets projects up to look like they're failing.

The study was conducted by USC's Metrans Transportation Center at the behest of Metro. Researchers installed sensors on the 10 and on nearby arteries during two three-month periods—one before the Expo Line opened in 2012 and one after. What they saw was a six percent rise in bus and train boardings, but no "consistent or significant" impact on the average speed of cars on the freeway during rush hour.

On nearby high-traffic streets like Washington, Martin Luther King Jr., or Venice boulevards, speeds "scarcely changed or showed mixed results" after Expo opened. The researchers who conducted the study warn though that it's pretty early in the game to make any "firm conclusions" about the effects of the line. Metro defended Expo and pointed to a 2013 study that showed that people who live close to the line have reduced their car-dependence and are walking more.

One expert, a professor emeritus of urban planning at UCLA and a former director of the UC Transportation Center, told the Times that just because the Expo hasn't magically cleared freeways doesn't mean it's "a poor investment. It gives people more choice, attracts new development patterns and has environmental benefits. The effects are to be seen cumulatively over many years."

"Looking into the future, this study shows us how to be more realistic in what we should expect from transit," a researcher at the USC center that conducted the study told KPCC. Traffic relief is a lot more flashy and attractive than what experts seemed to agree are the more proven benefits of transit: it offers more options to riders, especially those who are low-income or who have physical barriers to driving a car (e.g. a disability).
· USC study finds no lessening of traffic with Expo Line [SCPR]
· L.A. Expo Line hasn't reduced congestion as promised, a study finds [LAT]
· People Who Live Near The Expo Line Drive Less And Walk More [Curbed LA]