Traffic on the 10. Photo by Raymond Shobe/ CC/ Flickr.

Traffic on the 10. Photo by Raymond Shobe/ CC/ Flickr.

The relationship between Angelenos and traffic is a dysfunctional one. In a city without much weather, we obsess, instead, over traffic.

So a trip to ATSAC is sort of a traffic pilgrimage. ATSAC is the Automated Traffic Surveillance and Control center located under City Hall East, downtown. The computerized system monitors and controls every traffic light in the city, making real-time adjustments based on traffic conditions at about 4400 intersections. ATSAC was first used to route vehicles around the Coliseum during the 1984 Olympics; now it’s one of the largest and most sophisticated traffic control systems in the world.

Brian Taylor, director of UCLA’s Institute for Transportation Studies, says ATSAC has increased the efficiency of traffic flow but is fighting a losing battle against the city’s high population density and limited road capacity.

Los Angeles ranks second among major American cities in the number of residents per mile of roadway. (Honolulu is #1.) Projects that might significantly ease congestion in the long term, like double-decker freeways or rationed access to roads and parking, are either too expensive or politically unpalatable.

Below, we get a God’s eye view of LA traffic, and find out if the crosswalk buttons actually do anything.

ATSAC staff can view live feeds from more than 400 cameras mounted on poles and buildings around the city.

ATSAC staff can view live feeds from more than 400 cameras mounted on poles and buildings around the city.

Edward Yu is the director of the city’s Automated Traffic Surveillance and Control center.

Edward Yu is the director of the city’s Automated Traffic Surveillance and Control center.

Photo of loop seen on ATSAC monitor: More than 20,000 wire loops in surface streets throughout Los Angeles detect passing or stopped vehicles.

Photo of loop seen on ATSAC monitor: More than 20,000 wire loops in surface streets throughout Los Angeles detect passing or stopped vehicles.

 

 

 

 

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