A Major Traffic Street Plan

for Los Angeles

Prepared for the

Committee on Los Angeles Plan of Major Highways of the Traffic Commis-

sion of the City”and County of Los Angeles


Consulting Board




Causes of Street CongestionA program such as thi~ can only be acco,!,plished over a period of year~. Satisfactory progress wIll ne.ver be made if the execution of the plan IS left to the whims of changing political administrations. Some specific agency must assume the responsibility for pr<;serving the integrity of the plan. Step by step, as occasIOn l1er- mits the execution of this, that and the other project must be secured until gradually a complete and satis- factory traffic circulation scheme is evolved. Your pres-

. ent committee should be continued, enlarged if neces- sary and so constituted as to form a permanent sponsor for the development of a compr.chensive plan of major streets for the entire metropolitan district.

The prohlem of street~c congestio~ must be pr~­ gressively solved in a groWIng metropohs. The van- ous steps that should be taken from time to time to afford the greatest freedom of traffic circulation in Los Angeles are:

1. Regulation to secure maximum capacity of existing space (including elimination of park- iug, prohibition of obstructive turns at par- ticularly busy intersectio~, ~nkinl? of ve- hicles, use of most effective slgnalhng, cur- tailment of unnecessary movements,; and so forth).

2. Separation of classes of traffic (including rerouting of transit Jines).

3. Improvement of street plan (including eJl:n- ination af jogs and dead-end streets, creaoon of distributor and by-pass streets for busi- ness districts and improvement of radial and inter-district thoroughfares of the major street plan).

4. Exi;ension of major street plan to cover the whole metropolitan district, and completion of a Boulevard and Parkway System plan supplementing it.

5. Provision for expedited mass transportation by subways in business district and by rapid transit lines.

6. ProVision for the readjustment and extension of steam railroad lines and simplification of terminals, ,vith gradual elimination of grade crossings.

To execute such a program” involves much labor and e”peuse. A broad-visioned, unselfish and unifying agency is a prerequisite of eJ\.;:ensive accomplishment. Engineering skill, imprO\’ed legislative measures and an equitable finandal plan are necessary accompaniments. Public understanding and support must be secured.

No fixed program can be adopted and rigidly ad- hered to. Continuous study of conditions, of details, of plans, and of costs, will alone determine the rela- tive importance and order in which various measures should be undertaken. There is no simple single remedy for the comple.’!: traffic problem in a rapidiy growing metropolis.

Establisbment of a permanent Citizens’ Committee on City Plan, similar to that which bas so successfully op- erated for the past four years in Pittsburgh, or to that of Chicago which for ten years has been accomplish- ing most notable results is the procedure most likely, in the Board’s opinion, to do what needs very much to be done in Los Angeles. Such a committee will prob- ably need a budget of one hundred thousand dollars a year for not less than three to five years, and a lesser, but still “ery considerable, budget thereafter in order to do its work adequately and promptly.

The causes of· street congestion in Los Angeles are, except for the important one of climate, not unlike those in most other cities. They are:

1. Rapid growth of the city and of the volume of tr,1flic.

2. Climate and other conditions peculiar to Los Angeles, intensifying both elements of the first factor and raising certain special prob- leros.

3. Unscientific width and arrangement of streets.

4. Improper use of existing street space. 5. Promiscuous mixing of different types of

traffic. 6. Naturn! or artificial obstructions to circula-

tion. 7. Limiting capacity of street intersections. ‘ 8. Conceotration of business.

1. Rapid Growth of the City and of the Volume of Traffic:

The rapid growth of Los Angeles is without.parallel among cities. Official census records show an mcrease in popnlation from 102,479 persons in 1900, to 319,198 in 1910 and 576,673 in 1920. ‘Reliable estimates based upon school increases, street car riding, telephone users and other utility company records indicate a present population (1924) of approximately l,OOO,O~O persons within the city limits, while the total population of the city and immediately contiguous cities and tnwus is ap- proximately 1,500,000.”

From March I, 1923, to March I, 1924, there were 84,000 new lots created by subdividing acreage in Los Angeles county and 125,000 houses “,ected, according to figures presented to the Realty Board recently by County Assessor Ed. W. Hopkins. In the twelve months previous there were 8~,000 new lots and 102,- 000 new buildinlls. .

New subdiviSIOn maps filed of record in the city and county during 1923 were estimated to cover a total of 65,000 acres, nearly ali withdrawn from agriculture for’ town lot purposes~

The 1924 assessed valuation of property in Los An- geles County aggregates $1,992,068,094, a gain of $418,- 649,927 over last year’s. total. The total. assessed valuation of all property ‘n the county has lOcreased approximately 1,000 per cent in the last twenty years, according to Assessor Hopkins, and this assessed valua- tion is about 50 per cent of the market value placed on property. The County tax levy for the fiscal year 1923- 1924 which is now being colletted, totals $61,281,000.

U:s Angeles County conta!ns. an area of 4,000 square miles of whicl. three-fifths .s ‘n the Angeles National Fores’t Reserve. A little over 400 square miles or 10% is in · limits of Los Angeles.

Great as has been the increase in population, build- ings and property values, vehicular traffic has increased even faster. Maps 6 and 7 represent the volume of

“‘Compare Detroit’s growth from 160,000 in 1880 to 993,- 000 in 1920 (40 years) and Cbicago’s growth frnm 109,000 in 1860 to 1,099.000 in 1890 (30 years) and then to 2,701,000 (in the succeeding 30 years).


traffic upon the main thoroughfares of the t;ity as re- corded by counts made in 1922 and 1924 respectively. Observe the general increase throughout the whole city and particularly the proportionately greater increases east and south. ‘

No more graphic illustration of the remarkable traf- fic increase in Los Angeles could be had than that showing traffic year by year upon certain main thor- oughfares (Diagram 5).

The total registration of automobiles in California and particularly in Los Angeles County (Diagram 4)’ further emphasizes the remarkable growth of Los An- geles traffic. Registrations in Los Angeles County in- creased from 110,000 in ‘1918. to 430,000 in 1923, an increase of 400 per cent in five years, and the present registration in Los Angeles County very nearly equals the total of ali other counties in the state.

Even in the downtown area, the automobile. brings in a large percentage of the daily inllu.’!: of people. The cordon count of the Parking Survey Committee showed 643,374 passengers (including driver) carried by autos iuto the downtown* district (in 11 hours in November, 1923) as against 750,000 on the street railways in the same area. For 24 hours it is estimated that automo- biles carned in and out 800,000 passengers, including drivers, and the street cars. (all Jines) 950,000 passen- gers on a typical day in the downtown* district. See Diagrams Nos. 10 and 11 for actual figures.

What the total passenger movement by automobile per day may be in Los Angeles ~ difficult to surmise. Counted in the same way as the trip fares on the street railroads, it is probably in excess of 2,000,000.

The maximum number of street eat’S in service was 750 per day during the first weelr in December,1918, and 964- during the first week in December, 1923. The ma:>cimum number operated any day in December, 1923, was 1,045 or 28.6% increase in five, years. The aver-‘ age daily passenger haul the first week inlDecember, 1918, was 517,580,and in the same period 011923 was 1,065,000, an increase of more than 100 per cent.”* This class of traffic (street cars) represents a most important form of the use of public thoroughfares.