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Familiar Freeway Congestion : The Monday Morning Gridlock: Welcome to L.A.

March 16, 1986|DAVE LARSEN | Times Staff Writer

Not meaning any irreverence, but you'll notice that the book of Genesis doesn't make a reference to any eighth day.

That would have brought things back to Monday again, and anybody who has ever been on a freeway in Southern California knows what that means.

No, it isn't just your imagination. Driving conditions are morE congested on a MoNday morning. Plus, of course, on Friday afternoons. But, somehow, that doesn't seem to be as nettlesome.

Are We There Yet?

Blue Monday, it used to be called, at one time referring to the fact that it was the traditional washday. Out here, it is when every commuter wishes everybody else would go dry up.

In the land where the cloverleaf is the unofficial city flower, nowhere else are the words of E. B. White more appropriate: "Everything in life is somewhere else, and you get there in a car."

And Monday morning in Los Angeles is when the inbound freeways are the least user friendly. It is when everybody should allow extra driving time, but not enough do. Besides, as someone once put it, "if you're there before it's over, you're on time."

"The parking lots downtown are always filled to capacity on Monday mornings," said Stanley E. Long, president of the Parking Assn. of California.

Particularly on that first working day of the week, parking is such street sorrow.

"Every car trip begins and ends with parking," Long sagely pointed out.

What happens in between, however, is more responsible for what makes so many of us Type A.

"I have no survey to prove it, but after 10 years of doing these daily drive-time traffic reports, I can say without hesitation that Monday mornings and Friday afternoons are the worst out there," said Bill Keene of KNX Radio (1070), the dean of the local breed.

And things are getting even worse. Lend an ear to Keene's $1.20 theory: " . . . When the price of gasoline hits $1.20 a gallon, there is a big drop-off in freeway traffic, on all days," the veteran broadcaster said, adding, "But the way the price has been falling lately, everything that can burn gas is back on the road.

"A lot of people who might otherwise car-pool are starting to say the hell with it."

Keene also believes, Monday morning and Friday afternoon notwithstanding, the hoary tradition known as the rush hour has for all intents and purposes disappeared in these parts.

"I think traffic is sometimes as heavy in the middle of the day as it is during what used to be our rush hour," he said. "Frequently it is heavier and the accidents are worse."

Which doesn't mean that the beep and creep of a Monday morning or Friday afternoon is a mirage.

"We don't have specific records to indicate how much greater the freeway traffic volume is during those hours, but it definitely is greater," said Gary Bork, chief of the traffic operations branch for Caltrans in Los Angeles, Orange and Ventura counties.

The reason there are no such records, Bork explained, is that Caltrans does its traffic studies for 24-hour periods. Thus it has no statistics that would reflect or isolate peak periods on a given day.

For whatever it is worth, average traffic volume for the 24 hours comprising a Monday is 3.66% lower than that for a midweek day such as a Tuesday, Bork said. Which obviously means that, considering the morning crunch at the start of the workweek, Monday afternoon traffic is unusually light.

Friday Is the Pits

For the 24 hours comprising a typical Friday as compared with a Tuesday, however, the figure is 6.24% higher, Bork added. Which may mean that Friday is the pits all day--although some observers contend those mornings are light.

Another road scholar who echoes the general feeling of regular commuters is Paul Fowler, traffic engineer with the Automobile Club of Southern California: "Monday morning is undoubtedly the heaviest commute time."

Thus, with just about a consensus among the experts who are in a position to know, we come to the obvious question: Why? Why are so many people in a car pointed downtown on a Monday morning?

"For many workers, especially white-collar, it is a matter of getting the week lined up, coming in to sort out the assignments," Fowler said.

"Salesmen in particular may not drive to the office every work day, but they often will on a Monday."

Another factor, the auto club engineer pointed out, is that Southlanders seem to be adopting a practice common in parts of the East--getting the last drop of enjoyment from a weekend at a recreation area by staying Sunday night and driving directly from there to work Monday morning.

At the Jersey shore in the summer, for instance, this is done routinely. "It's a way to stretch the weekend," Fowler observed, "and entirely possible if you went to a relatively nearby place such as Palm Springs."

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