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The Cost Of Congestion

December 24, 1988|Jeffrey A. Perlman | Clipboard researched by Kathie Bozanich, Susan Davis Greene and Dallas Jamison / Los Angeles Times. Graphics by Thomas Penix / Los Angeles Times

Traffic congestion will cost you and your employer more in lost time, wages, fuel and vehicle maintenance by the year 2010 than it will cost residents and businesses in Los Angeles County, according to the Southern California Assn. of Governments.

That's because Orange County began experiencing tremendous growth with fewer freeway and major arterial miles in place, and because there are fewer alternate routes available to motorists when tie-ups occur, transportation experts say.

If only already-planned and funded transportation projects are completed, traffic congestion will cost Orange County residents and businesses a total of $9 billion annually by the year 2010, compared to $8.8 billion in L.A., SCAG's studies show.

In 1984, the last year for which such estimates are available, congestion cost Orange County residents and businesses an estimated $392.1 million annually.

SCAG, a six-county regional planning agency for Southern California, is developing plans to reduce congestion and the resulting costs. If its controversial strategies are enacted to reduce congestion, the costs could be held to $2 million per day in Orange County, SCAG officials say.

SCAG's preferred strategy includes:

Strict regulations requiring ride sharing and flexible work hours. This would affect about 80% of the daily home-to-work trips.

Limited construction of new facilities, including the three planned toll roads in south Orange County; widening of the Santa Ana Freeway; installation of car-pool lanes throughout the county; increased availability of buses and trains, and synchronized, computer controlled traffic signals.

Growth management regulations that, for example, would seek to push some job-producing commercial development to areas of Riverside and San Bernardino counties that are housing-rich but job-poor.

The plan assumes that job-rich areas, such as Orange County, should not try to provide jobs for everyone. Under this plan, Orange County would discourage some future job growth through zoning, fees levied on major new employers and requirements for public facility improvements.

SCAG's estimated costs of congestion are derived by:

Calculating the number of daily trips on area highways, the number of miles traveled in which traffic loads are beyond design capacity, and the number of hours workers collectively spend on such roads.

Projecting the number of work hours lost each day due to congestion.

Calculating the hourly labor and production costs for the lost time.

Adding vehicle fuel and extra maintenance costs.

Estimates do not include weekend travel, delays caused by accidents, major entertainment and sporting events, and irregular lane closures due to highway construction. Cost projections are not adjusted for inflation.

ANNUAL COST OF CONGESTION IN 1984 Orange County $0.39 billion Los Angeles County $1.31 billion ANNUAL COST OF CONGESTION IN 2010 If no new actions taken Orange County $8.98 billion Los Angeles County $8.83 billion ANNUAL COST OF CONGESTION IN 2010 Traffic reduction plans enated Orange County $0.51 billion Los Angeles County $1.58 billion Source: Southern California Assn. of Governments

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