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A Solution to LA's Traffic Problem


Former Paramount Pictures Chairman Sherry Lansing retired from show business and joined Mayor Antonio Villagairosa's transition team as he began his term as Mayor in 2005.


May 31, 2005


Dear Sherry,

Hi, and congratulations on your successful transition into a new life.  

I’ve had an idea for ten years on a popular subject, traffic in LA.  This past weekend, on the BBQ circuit, I got into another conversation about traffic, and once again, I mentioned my idea.  As is invariably the case, the person I told said, “Wow, good idea,” and then as usual, they push me to call the Mayor or whoever, but I don’t know anybody. Until now!  Alright, so here it is.  Warning: it’s simple.

The problem in the main basin, from downtown to the beaches, from the hills north of Sunset to the Baldwin Hills in the south, is that the east-west surface streets are very slow.  So people either crowd the freeways or else crawl across town, having to stop at every third light.

The solution is to make all the east-west thoroughfares one way. So, for example, if Hollywood Boulevard was east-to-west, then Sunset would be west-to-east, Santa Monica east-to-west, Melrose west-to-east, and so-on all the way down.  This would accomplish three things:

-by eliminating the need for a left-turn lane, we would add one more lane of traffic.  This would facilitate an increase of between 17-25% more cars (depending on whether this is adding a 5th lane to a four lane street or 7th lane to a six-lane street) without a single dollar of construction. Just repaint some lines.

-by eliminating the need for left-hand turn arrows, we will save 30 seconds of drive-time for every light where left-turn arrows are encountered, which I estimate is roughly 10 times per cross-town trip.  This will mean less time stopped, less jam-ups when these lanes get filled and gets cars moving faster, in general.

-by eliminating two-way traffic, we can install staggered lights.  This is the true raison d’etre of the plan.  Staggered like they are in Manhattan, where you can drive from Battery Park to the northern tip of Manhattan at 35 mph without having to stop for a single red. 

By installing staggered signals on wider roads with no left-hand turn arrows, we would create a half dozen ways to take a fast ride from the beach to downtown and vice versa, all without having to get on the freeway.  Construction cost, zero.

What I’d heard about this, I don’t recall where, is that this was initially proposed, but was defeated by the oil companies in the ‘40s, which of course I believe, since I’ve seen Chinatown one too many times.  Regardless, thanks for your consideration, and good luck with the transition team.

All best,



Post-script: the next day, I received a facsimile back from Sherry, who was in Amman, Jordan.  She promised to discuss this with the Mayor.  There was an article in the LA Times in 2007 in which the Mayor described a plan to experiment with a gradual move toward this idea on Pico and Olympic Boulevards.  As of February 2010, no experiment has yet been undertaken.

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