LA's bad traffic: A comparative advantage in new era of transportation?

jc-mg-200-names.jpgJon Christensen writes: The next time you're stuck in traffic think about this: You're not just part of the problem. You're part of the solution. And not just for LA, but for the world!

That gridlock? It's evidence of a huge market for advanced transportation technologies. And that demand is driving innovation, some of which is already on display this week at the Los Angeles Auto Show.

NeilKremer110.jpgThat's the conclusion of a new report--"Driving the Spotlight: Los Angeles and Orange Counties' Large Producer and Consumer Base Driving Advanced Transportation Growth"--by Next 10, an independent nonpartisan organization founded by businessman F. Noel Perry to advocate for California's future, and Collaborative Economics, a Silicon Valley-based research and consulting organization.

The report reasons that LA and Orange Counties have the largest base of consumers of automotive technology, plus high concentrations of businesses that buy transportation technologies too, such as the ports of LA and Long Beach and public transit agencies. The report argues that the region is already building on this local demand to develop advanced transportation technologies to serve broader state, national, and global markets.

The Los Angeles-Orange County area accounts for 34 percent of the state's population, with over 13 million residents and rising, but it accounts for close to 40 percent of the zero emission vehicles on the road in the state. The region represents the largest and fastest-growing electric vehicle market in the state, with about 23,500 electric vehicles registered last year, nearly double the amount from the year before. Natural gas vehicle use is also increasing, with about 16,000 vehicles registered last year, nearly half of the state total.

We've got another advantage too, says Doug Henton, CEO of Collaborative Economics: "The Los Angeles area is the nation's automotive design capital, with more than 20 design centers for companies including BMW, Honda, and Tesla. There is a concentration of companies, organizations, research institutions and groups working on advanced transportation technologies, including electric vehicles, hydrogen fuel cells, and renewable natural gas made from waste."

We'll never get greenhouse gas emissions under control without major changes in transportation systems and technologies, especially in Los Angeles. The Next 10 report provides some hope that solutions could be on the road sooner rather than later, especially if such a big market as LA demands them.

We've heard a lot of promises of solutions from on high recently. President Barack Obama recently committed the United States to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 26 percent by 2025. Mayor Eric Garcetti has pledged to reduce LA's energy demands 15 percent by 2020--the equivalent of pulling nearly half a million cars off the road. And Governor Jerry Brown wants to put 1 million zero-emission vehicles and near-zero-emission vehicles on the road in California by 2023.

But remember next time you're stuck in a traffic jam, these solutions won't come without lots of consumers driving the change.

Photo courtesy of Neil Kremer.

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