EL MONTE – Driving in Southern California can make you sick. Numerous medical studies have documented that commuting to work and other destinations in heavy traffic over time causes blood pressure and blood sugar to rise, adds calories to your waist, boosts cholesterol, causes neck and back pain, makes you anxious and depressed, hurts sleep, cuts exercise time, ruins relationships, and work suffers. Breathing exhaust fumes from freeway traffic also is not conducive to good health.
Commuting by Metrolink trains beats the stress of driving in traffic, a point made during October Rideshare Month by a USC health professor who recently rode a Metrolink train down the busy I-10 Freeway during rush hours.
“Taking Metrolink makes sense on many levels,” said Prof. Ed Avol. “It helps deal with gridlock, reduces air pollution, relieves stress and anxiety and reduces personal exposure to pollution, all of which is good for your health.”
The benefits of commuting by train particularly apply to long-distance commuters who are most at risk. A 2012 study in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine found that the further people commute by vehicle, the higher their blood pressure and body mass index is likely to be.
Considering that many Southern California residents travel upwards of 30 miles one way to work in central Los Angeles, Orange County, Burbank, Glendale and elsewhere, that’s a lot of stress. And freeway traffic here is among the worst in the nation, according to data company Inrix.
The average driver in the Los Angeles-Long Beach-Santa Ana region spent 81 hours stuck in freeway traffic in 2015. It’s almost as bad in other parts of Southern California thanks to an abundance of jobs in Orange County and affordable housing in the Inland Empire. Three sections of Interstate 5 between Irvine and Downtown Los Angeles rank among the most clogged stretches of highway in the United States. The 91 freeway between Fullerton and Corona is another dubious competitor.
And traffic annually costs the average driver in the region nearly $2,000 in lost wages and productivity. Gridlock also contributes to air pollution. Thousands of Southern California residents die each year from breathing polluted air, much of it spawned by cars and trucks idling in traffic, according to U.S. Environmental Protection Agency research published in the journal Risk Analysis. Congestion also wastes millions of gallons of fuel.
So, it’s no surprise that traffic remains the top concern for Southern California residents, topping personal safety, housing costs and retirement savings in a recent Los Angeles Times poll, findings echoed by Metrolink riders. Sixty-seven percent of riders surveyed said less stress than driving is why they take the train.
“I now come home relaxed,” says Steve Dooner, who recently starting taking Metrolink from Moorpark to work in Burbank after tiring of stop-and- go traffic driving the I-5.
“When I look out the window to the right and see the 10 Freeway, I’m so glad not to be in one of those cars stuck in traffic,” says Hasan Ikhrata, executive director of the Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG), himself an occasional Metrolink rider.
Metrolink Deputy CEO Elissa Konove noted that Metrolink also takes some of the stress off the Southland’s busy freeways.
“By reducing 8.7 million car trips annually, Metrolink acts as a relief valve for our congested freeways,” said Konove. “And fewer cars idling in traffic means less air pollution, too.”
Konove also noted that Metrolink this month is ushering into service the first of its new Tier 4 locomotives, the cleanest, most powerful and safest diesel engines of any major commuter rail system in the United States. Tier 4 locomotives will reduce PM and NOx emissions by up to 85 percent over standard diesel engines. When all 40 of these Tier 4 locomotives are in service it will be equivalent to reducing the annual emissions of 31,320 vehicles.
To learn more about Metrolink including how to ride, go to www.metrolinktrains.com.
ABOUT METROLINK (www.metrolinktrains.com)
Metrolink is Southern California's regional commuter rail service in its 25th year of operation. Metrolink is governed by The Southern California Regional Rail Authority (SCRRA), a joint powers authority made up of an 11-member board representing the transportation commissions of Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino and Ventura counties. Metrolink operates seven routes through a six-county, 538 route-mile network. Metrolink’s passengers travel approximately 441 million miles each year, making Metrolink the second busiest public transportation provider in Southern California. Metrolink is the third largest commuter rail agency in the United States based on directional route miles and the eighth largest based on annual ridership.