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Change Generation

L.A. Could Remove 100,000 Cars Over Five Years . . . By Adding More Cars?

Imagining Los Angeles as a city where car ownership isn't necessary.

L.A. Could Remove 100,000 Cars Over Five Years . . . By Adding More Cars?

[Photo: Chris Sattlberger/Getty Images]

A new raft of plans to get 100,000 cars off the roads in the next five years contains one amazing, only-in-L.A. proposal: adding almost 10,000 cars. A new report from the nonprofit Shared-Use Mobility Center envisions, among many other sensible ideas, adding 8,400 cars to the city’s car-share programs.

The report, which says that L.A. is "becoming one of the leading centers of transportation innovation in the U.S.," and that it is also "a testing ground for new mobility concepts," urges the city to capitalize on its momentum to reduce car use by promoting public and shared transport. The goal is to get 2% (100,000) of vehicles off the roads over five years. This seemingly modest goal is supposed to still reduce CO2 emissions by almost 375,000 tons, save 40 million gallons of gasoline, and save people $350 million in transport costs each year.

The recommendations, which cover 10 cities in Los Angeles County, are split across a range of alternative transport options. First up is 10,000 new bike-share bikes, costing $23 million. L.A. already has a bunch of plans in place, but they’re all run by different partners. One of the proposals is to make these systems work together. Another idea is micro-transit, or a kind of cross between buses and taxis. The small shuttle buses could be routed according to need: Customers order up a ride using, say, a smartphone app, and the shuttle is routed accordingly. This means that the vehicles can travel at capacity, and that there are no wasted stops.

[Photo: JohnnyH5/iStock]

Another part of the plan is regular shuttle services: limited-stop services serving specific destinations. These could pick up employees for a single company (like the Google buses in San Francisco), or take folks to the airport.

But the biggest plans are reserved for cars themselves, which one might say is L.A.’s biggest resource. The report recommends "ride sourcing," ride splitting, and taxis. Ride sourcing is what the Shared-Use Mobility Center, which receives some funding from the industry, calls Lyft and Uber. These offer much of the convenience of private car use, without actually having to own a car. More interesting is ride splitting, when different Uber passengers share a ride.

Part of this would involve adding 8,400 cars to city car-share programs. By increasing the number cars in programs like Zipcar, private cars would be removed from the roads. "Car sharing can contribute significantly to reducing reliance on private autos," says the report, "with each car-share car removing 9 to 11 private vehicles from the road."

The key, then, is a multimodal system that lets you get anywhere, easily, without getting in your own car. You can bike short to medium distances, take public transport to the airport, or commute in a shuttle bus, reading the news instead of nudging your car through an L.A. traffic jam. You can take an Uber back from the supermarket, and carpool with your coworkers. People won’t get out of their cars unless you force them, and forcing them doesn’t work if there are no alternatives. And what this proposal offers is lots and lots of alternatives.

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