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Study: SoCal traffic among worst in nation

January 20, 2011 12:00:00 AM PST
To the surprise of no one who navigates Southland streets and freeways, the Los Angeles area ranks among the nation's worst when it comes to traffic congestion.Sitting in traffic costs us, not only time, but money. When you're sitting on the freeway, you're burning gasoline going nowhere.

Researchers from Texas A&M University found that the Los Angeles region has the worst traffic congestion in the country.

On top of their regular commute time, drivers in the Los Angeles, Long Beach and Santa Ana areas spent, on average, an additional 63 hours in 2009 in traffic. That costs the average commuter $1,464.

In Riverside and San Bernardino, drivers wasted an additional 30 hours in traffic, at a cost of $741 per motorist.

And in Oxnard and Ventura, commuters spent an average of 19 additional hours in traffic, costing each driver around $443.

"I think it's because of the trailers, the big trailers. They drive too slow and they're too big, and they take up a lot of space and they cause everybody to drive slow," said Los Angeles resident Wendy Canon.

While that's one driver's theory, the study said the reason for more traffic congestion has to do with the economy. The study found traffic was better than it had been in a decade during the height of the recession in 2008. But roads snarled once again in 2009 as people returned to work and started shopping again.

"Freeways, surface streets, and all the little shortcuts that used to be shortcuts are no longer shortcuts," said Los Angeles resident Susan James.

"You don't really know how bad it is [until] you're sitting on the 405 or the 5 during rush hour and you're going about five miles an hour," said driver Philip Urso.

Researchers suggest drivers try to reduce traffic congestion by using public transportation and by changing their driving patterns to avoid the traditional rush hours.

"I try to... either leave work early and work at home or I try to leave work late. I try to stay off the freeways, take city streets whenever I can," said Silver Lake resident Eli Schneider.

The traffic study said the good news is that traffic congestion is a sign of prosperity. But the problem is that traffic congestion is rising faster than the economy.