Sunday, December 16, 2007
Asthetically Pleasing Freeways
I have spent the past couple of days in Los Angeles, visiting USC. I know I am strange for saying this, but I think some of the freeway interchanges there are rather beautiful. The most spectacular is the intersection of the Harbor and 105 freeways (photo comes from http://www.my-photo-blog.com/2006/11). While it is a terrific photograph, it doesn't really do the thing justice. It is otherworldly when you drive through it.
My guess is that the project cost considerably more than necessary to perform its function. But the graceful curves and views add more to the urban landscape than a normal interchange would. I think many tend to sneer at LA Freeways, but they are actually admired in other parts of the World. A Chinese municipal official who was in an executive class of mine said that he really admired LA because of the design of its freeways. Genevieve Giuliano, who directs a transportation research center at USC, notes that LA would have plenty of Freeway capacity, if only the front passenger seat in cars were occupied more often. Indeed, a car with two occupants is a pretty efficient transportation technology under many circumstances (you can, after all, then multiply MPG per passenger by two). The tough question, as Professor Giuliano puts it, is how to fill that passenger seats. HOV lanes really haven't done it. It will probably take tolls.