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Lyft Wants to Fix Traffic Problems by Reducing Car Lanes

September 18, 2017, 11:40 PM UTC

In addition to its work to develop autonomous vehicles, Lyft is also considering new street designs for a potential future in which there are fewer drivers on the road.

Lyft is now partnering with transportation consultants Nelson/Nygaard and architecture firm Perkins+Will to help design streets that could one day cut down on traffic problems in dense urban centers like Los Angeles, which has some of the worst traffic in the country. On Monday, Lyft shared one potential design for that city with CNN that envisions a new design for L.A.’s regularly congested Wilshire Blvd. that would look to cut traffic by reducing the number of designated driving lanes.

Where Wilshire Blvd. currently has 10 driving lanes, Lyft and its partners’ design imagines only three narrowed lanes for traditional cars, along with two dedicated lanes for autonomous buses (buses currently have to share space with cars on the street). There would also be loading zones for ride-sharing vehicles and space for planting trees, extended sidewalks, and protected bicycle lanes.

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Nelson/Nygaard’s director of strategy, Jeff Tumlin, told CNN that the redesigned streets would actually be able to transport more people than Wilshire Blvd.’s current design by effectively using autonomous vehicles as well as non-vehicular transportation modes like walking and biking. In other words, if the street’s redesign makes those alternative methods of transportation more palatable for everyday commuters, then more of them will be likely to ditch their personal cars, which would cut down on congestion. According to Lyft and its two partners, their redesign would allow Wilshire to transport 77,000 people per hour, which is more than double the current figure of 29,600.

Lyft has invested heavily in autonomous vehicle technology—including partnerships with major industry players, such as General Motors, Alphabet’s Waymo, NuTonomy, and Jaguar Land Rover —as the company looks for ways to outmaneuver its chief ride-sharing rival, Uber.