Los Angeles - grime and traffic

In response to a post on John August's blog where he discusses the following quote:

Can you figure out which of the following is accurate?

Los Angeles’s air is choked with smog.

Los Angeles has developed in a low-density, sprawling pattern.

Angelenos spend more time stuck in traffic than any other drivers in the nation.

Thanks to the great distances between far-flung destinations, and perhaps to Angelenos’ famed “love affair” with the car, Angelenos drive considerably more miles than most Americans.

Los Angeles is dominated by an overbuilt freeway system that promotes autodependence.

Los Angeles’s mass transit system is underdeveloped and inadequate.

As someone who grew up in LA in the 80s (Palos Verdes), and lived back there a few years ago (Koreatown), and who has also lived in several cities around the US plus in Europe - this is my take.

The orange haze from the 80s is gone. BUT my apartment in Koreatown was constantly covered with a layer of soot-like black grime. So there is still a LOT of crud in the air, it’s just not orange anymore.

Definitely sprawling, but only moderately low-density… and this is improving over time. Neighborhoods are getting more defined (in a good way) and downtown and adjacent areas becoming more self-sufficient. Compared to DFW, where I live now, it’s definitely got more going for it in terms of density, which I consider a good thing. A 30-40 mile work commute is not uncommon here, and the suburban areas are generally really generic, as they haven’t developed much neighborhood flavor.

More time stuck in traffic? I dunno. Depends on where you’re traveling and when. Most learn to adjust their schedules to avoid peak traffic times, and many employers offer work scheduling that takes that into account (like allowing people to come in at 7am or at 10am for an 8-hr shift) but when I was living in K-town and working in Pasadena, that short drive could take a very long time in the evening rush.

Angelenos love their cars. This is true. I see more classic and more souped up cars driving around LA than any other city I’ve lived in. But more miles altogether? Nah. I’m sure it takes more driving to get around DFW than it did in LA. I mostly stayed within a handful of neighborhoods, walked (gasp!really!) a lot, and found lots to entertain me. Well, when I was in K-town that is. Great location close to everything. Growing up in PV, well, getting anywhere meant driving over the hill. I actually took the bus from Rancho Palos Verdes to USC for a full semester before my parents relented and helped me get into a dorm room. Oi. So, I guess it depends on where you draw your circle and call it “LA” - how far you get into the suburbs. I’m sure people who live in the Valley drive a lot. Those in Hollywood, not so much.

Wouldn’t call the freeway system overbuilt. Seems about right for the area, and not so much more than many other metro areas.

Now as for the mass transit. Hm. It exists. With care and planning you can kinda get around. But it’s really pathetically inadequate. In Prague, I could leave a theater after midnight in one outlying area, and get a tram or subway back to an outlying area on the far side of the metroplex. I might have to wait 20 minutes, or even 30 on a Sunday. Getting around the heart of the city was effortless. Small towns like Boulder and Santa Cruz have great bus systems. Of the places I’ve lived, LA is only better than one: DFW. DFW has the most inadequate sorry-assed attempt at public transportation as any place I’ve lived. In LA, I could walk or ride a bike most places. In Dallas there are huge areas where it’s hard to get across the freeways if you’re not driving. It’s like coming across a rushing river in the middle of the urban jungle. You sometimes have to traverse the banks for miles to find a bridge.

I love LA. I like it a lot better than Dallas. My only real problems with LA are the following:

* The pollution. Seriously, maybe it's not so bad if you're further from downtown, but my apartment would get *filthy* with grime. My car windows were too grimy to see out of if I didn't wash them every week. (In Dallas, I can go 3 or 4 weeks. Unless it's pollen season or we've had dirt thrown on the roads for ice.)

* The poor public transportation.

* and, more than any other by far - The cost of living as compared to the wages. It's 3x more expensive than here, but wages are about the same or even slightly lower. This means most folks work 2 or three jobs, housing is not affordable, and stress levels are generally much higher than anyone wants to admit because it would ruin the laid-back sunny zen-smoking image Angelenos like to keep up.