street canyon

Grand Canyon Mall, Haifa, Israel, June 2, 2016

Leon Sturman lives in Sherman Oaks, near the top of a hill that separates the San Fernando Valley from West Los Angeles. His is a narrow, winding street typical of the canyon neighborhoods that usually provide a haven from the buzz of urban life. It runs parallel to one of the most congested corridors in the country: the 405 freeway.

By 7 a.m., though, Sturman’s street begins to resemble that freeway.

“Take a look down the block,” he says one weekday morning. “How many cars are there? Thirty cars already just waiting as far as the eye can see.”

The gridlock is a recent phenomenon, says Preet Dhillon, who grew up on this street and lives next to Sturman. She attributes the backup to one factor in particular: Waze.

The GPS-enabled navigation app uses crowd-sourced traffic data from some 50 million users to find drivers the quickest possible route. It’s no surprise the idea has been embraced in traffic-choked cities like Los Angeles, which boasts almost 2 million users — the app’s biggest market in the U.S.

The Road Less Traveled? Not Since Waze Came To Los Angeles

Photo: Ruby Wallau/NPR