ROADS REPORT: Go west, young man

They say there’s sun, shopping and jobs, just avoid the highways in the mornings, afternoons and evenings

Blog Entry June 12, 2013

David Matthews has been chronicling the unexpectedly humorous side of transportation news for his Roads Report column since 2000. The stories are all true.

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Driving business
The fashion world has always moved fast, but now it’s on four wheels and headed for a street corner near you.

The latest trend in fashion is the mobile boutique. After all, if you can sell tacos and ice cream from a converted shipping truck, then why not clothing and jewelry?

Mobile retail stores began popping up on the West Coast a few years ago, and now entrepreneurs from Los Angeles to Austin to Nashville to New York City are finding it much faster and more cost effective to operate a business from a truck, where operating costs can run just a fraction of those of a traditional brick-and-mortar store.   

Store owners are converting school buses, RVs and old FedEx trucks into small clothing stores that they can park in different locations each day. Customers can find out when the truck will visit their neighborhood on the store’s website or social media.

Of course, space is an issue. Mobile boutiques can only accommodate a few customers at a time, but that also provides a more intimate shopping experience than a crowded department store.

While most mobile boutiques sell women’s clothing, some are beginning to expand into new areas like shoes, home furnishings and one day maybe even something men are interested in.

L.A. traffic in a jam
It’s no wonder mobile boutiques originated in L.A. Customers there may well be the most appreciative of stores coming to them considering how long it could take for them to get to the stores.

That’s because once again, Los Angeles has been named the city with the heaviest traffic in the U.S., according to a new report from data company Inrix.

The city has fought back with subways and light-rail lines, wider highways and car pool, toll and bus-only lanes, but still the roads remain stubbornly clogged.

In fact, the average L.A. driver spent 59 hours sitting in traffic last year—the equivalent of an NFL team’s entire season of games, or three NASCAR races—and the average commute home on a Friday afternoon took more than an hour.

Los Angeles reclaims the top spot from Honolulu, which slipped back into second place after two years on top. Rounding out the top three was San Francisco.

The silver lining for L.A. is that traffic most likely worsened in 2012 because the city added about 90,000 new jobs, which is great for the economy, but a challenge for already gridlocked highways.

Unfortunately traffic isn’t likely to improve anytime soon, the study predicts. Congestion so far this year has already increased 6% over 2012.

There’s an app for that
If you’re an L.A. driver, or just feel like you spend five dozen hours a year stuck in traffic, there are some new mobile apps that can make you a better commuter.
For example, Automatic is a personal driving assistant app that syncs with your onboard computer to track your driving behavior and teach you to be a more fuel-efficient driver. It also can reduce your repair bills by diagnosing why your “Check Engine” light is on.

Apps like DriveOFF and TextBuster detect when your car (or your teen’s) is in motion and can automatically halt all incoming calls, texts and e-mails.

Finally, when the 405 has you running particularly late, Twist can calculate your estimated arrival time based on current traffic conditions and then update the people you’re meeting before they get too angry.

Now all we need is an app to finally bring a championship to the L.A. Clippers. R&B

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