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THE NEXT LOS ANGELES / TURNING IDEAS INTO ACTION : Getting Around : Are we creating a transit system that makes sense or simply a costly edifice that most Angelenos won't use? : Mythbusters

July 17, 1994

MYTH: My commute is hell; it's worse today than ever.

REALITY: The average travel distance to work is 15 miles one way, a decrease in distance for the first time in five years.

MYTH: I don't pollute much because I drive slowly.

REALITY: A 10-mile trip at an average speed of 20 m.p.h. results in running emissions 250% greater than a 10-mile trip at 55 m.p.h.

MYTH: We Californians are in love with our automobiles.

REALITY: In fact, 36 states have more vehicles per capita than California. Also in 36 states, people drive more miles per capita than Californians do, and residents of 42 states use more gasoline and diesel fuel. And 37 states have more licensed drivers per capita than California.

MYTH: It doesn't pay to car-pool.

REALITY: A solo commuter with a 40-mile round trip in a subcompact vehicle could save $630 annually in fuel, maintenance, vehicle wear and insurance costs by car-pooling with one other person. On average, car-pooling also saves about 24 minutes of fighting traffic.

MYTH: Rush hour is from 8 to 9 weekday mornings and from 5 to 6 in the evenings.

FACT: "Rush hour" is not one hour at the beginning and end of the day but a total of six hours, from 6:30 to 9 a.m. and from 3 to 6:30 p.m.

MYTH: I don't drive far, so I don't contribute to our smog.

REALITY: More than half the emissions that cars spew into our air occur within the first five miles of any trip. During a 20-mile trip, for instance, a car will emit 23 grams of hydrocarbons; of those, 14 grams are released within the first five miles of any trip.

Sources: Commuter Transportation Services, Inc; California Air Resources Board; U.S. Census Bureau; Caltrans.

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