Southern California has the second-worst traffic in the country, behind Washington D.C. Recent statistics compiled by the Texas Transportation Institute show that commuters in the Los Angeles area spent on average 61 hours per year stuck in traffic in 2012, compared to 37 hours in 1982. This time is estimated to carry a cost of about $1,300 per person per year in both wasted time and wasted fuel. The region is also second behind Washington D.C. in the unreliability of its freeways. Incidents often significantly affect the time that travelers need to travel to a given destination. As population and car ownership continue to grow, more time is spent in gridlock, more money is lost on wasted energy, and more air pollution is generated. This trend is expected to continue if nothing is done to address the problem.
In the past, government agencies across the country would have addressed the problem of urban congestion by widening highways; building new roads, tunnels, and bridges; and providing multimodal options where feasible, particularly for shorter urban trips. However, due to both financial and space constraints, the emphasis has now shifted from building new infrastructure to efficiently using what has already been built.
Except in very select situations, safety, mobility, and environmental improvements can no longer be achieved through expensive capital improvements alone. Nor do they need to be, as new technologies and more effective organizational cooperation can deliver a better traveler experience with minimal infrastructure changes. Similar to the way the manufacturing sector has raised efficiency through better software, hardware, and supply integration, the transportation sector can use technology to improve the performance of existing infrastructures.
Several studies have shown that technological advances can improve the operation of freeways, arterials, and other transportation systems at a much lower cost than the traditional infrastructure-based approach. And while improving specific roadways or transportation systems can still provide important benefits, the greatest gains in operational performance and travelers' quality of life are more likely to come from coordinated, multi-facility, multi-modal, and multi-jurisdiction solutions that address the overall transportation needs of a corridor rather than the needs of specific elements or agencies only.