The Road to Erosion : A Bumpy Ride For Commuters
Oneil Spencer was driving down Wilton Street near his home in Koreatown when he noticed a wide divot in the road. He didn’t have much time to react, but he could tell it was deep enough to damage his car, so he swerved left into the next lane to avoid it. Luckily, no one else was occupying that lane in the moment he drove into it. Oneil takes the Big Blue Bus to get to his classes at SMC, and he’s noticed street erosion on that ride too.
“It doesn’t really hit you until it hits the pothole that, oh yeah, just ran over a gigantic pothole, dipped in it, the whole bus shaking,” explains Oneil. He says that even though he doesn’t pay too close attention on the ride, he’s confident that “at a certain time in my commute to school, I could probably say tomorrow, oh here comes a pothole, everybody brace.”
Commuting in LA is challenging any time of the year, but it becomes an extreme sport in the rain. In stark contrast to the perennial sunshine Angelenos are used to, rain storms add the elements of impaired visibility and minimized tire traction to exacerbate the already infamous traffic. The region is finally emerging from the wettest winter it’s seen in years. But all that rain has taken a lasting toll on the roads. Pavement across the Southland is riddled with erosion, and SMC students have noticed.
According to Santa Monica Public Information Officer Constance Farrell, the city has a very strong annual road maintenance program. “I think that’s one thing our residents really appreciate, when you drive around Santa Monica, compared to other places in Los Angeles County, we have very well-paved, well-maintained streets.” Her claim is supported by SMC student Anthony Carle, who said that while there are many potholes near his home in Inglewood, he hasn’t noticed them in Santa Monica. Carle said the potholes in Inglewood are “very consistent, almost like a long stretch, like a tractor lowered its rake and started driving down the street.”
Even if road conditions are worse in other cities, they are still problematic within Santa Monica. Joseph Fasano is a third year philosophy student, and as a Santa Monica resident, that city is his frame of reference. He says that he started riding the bus to school instead of driving, partly because he didn’t want to deal with the holes in the road. He admits that “it’s just as aggressive riding the bus sometimes, when they hit a big pothole.”
D’Artagnan Hickey has also felt pothole-induced bus turbulence, but his chief mode of transport is bicycling. He takes the bus from Mid-City to Santa Monica, but rides his bike between the multiple SMC campuses where he has class. Potholes are a major concern during these rides, since Hickey knows “that if on my bike, if I hit that, I’m going over.” He said sometimes car drivers don’t notice him having to avoid the holes, so he has “to swerve in between them and then swerve back out,” hoping he doesn’t get hit in the process.
The city is aware of the problem. Farrell said this rainy season, Santa Monica has seen a 40% increase in the number of potholes their street services team is repairing. “So, obviously there is an impact with the weather, but our team has been prepared for that and has been working to address that.” Farrell also emphasized that the city relies on their residents to help report issues, and that they resolve anything reported within three business days.
They’re also looking into things like permeable concrete to help limit water buildup and assist with reclamation efforts. For the city of Los Angeles, their Department of Public Works received over 7,700 pothole service requests in the month of February alone. Similar to Santa Monica, they field resident service reports from the MyLA311 app, which they also aim to get to within three working days. Representative Paul Gomez says they don’t have hard numbers on the repairs yet, but of the 7,700 requests, they “we’re making very good progress” and are “almost completed with those.” He mentioned that the department is always looking for additional funding to invest in alternatives like more durable materials.