We at U.C.L.A. hear from reporters a lot, and they are often looking for a few quotes to help write a familiar script. In it, Los Angeles is cast in the role of the nation’s transportation dystopia: a sprawling, smog-choked, auto-obsessed spaghetti bowl of freeways which meander from one bland suburban destination to the next. The heroes of the picture are cities like San Francisco, or especially New York, which are said to have created vastly more livable urban forms based on density and mass transit.
But this stereotype is as trite and clichéd as any that has spewed from the printer of the most dim-witted Hollywood hack. And it is just as fictitious. The secret is that Los Angeles doesn’t fit the role it’s been typecast in.
I have not yet been granted authorization to distribute the coveted Freakonomics schwag, but challenge yourself with the following quiz anyway.
Exactly one of the following statements about transportation in Los Angeles is indisputably true. Two are (at best) half-truths, and the rest are flat-out myths. Can you figure out which of the following is accurate?
1. Los Angeles has developed in a low-density, sprawling pattern.
2. Los Angeles’s air is choked with smog.
3. Angelenos spend more time stuck in traffic than any other drivers in the nation.
4. Thanks to the great distances between far-flung destinations, and perhaps to Angelenos’ famed “love affair” with the car, Angelenos drive considerably more miles than most Americans.
5. Los Angeles is dominated by an overbuilt freeway system that promotes autodependence.
6. Los Angeles’s mass transit system is underdeveloped and inadequate.
Answers to follow over the next few weeks.