Waze and Google Maps seem to be sending heavy traffic to America’s fifth-steepest street.
With a 32% grade, Baxter Street in the Echo Park neighborhood of Los Angeles is the city’s third-steepest street, and thanks to navigation apps, it’s quickly becoming the city’s most problematic. The hilly narrow street flanked by street-parked cars and homes was never meant to be a major thoroughfare.
However, concerned residents and drivers are uniformly convinced that the proliferation of navigation apps like Waze and Google Maps are directing heavy traffic to the street as a shortcut from the larger and more congested Glendale Boulevard nearby. Baxter Street, which is also among the 10 steepest in the United States, is difficult to negotiate under the best of circumstances. Speeding rush-hour drivers, often unaware of the dangers present, plus infrequent bouts of rain have turned the street into a very real hazard.
This dashcam video offers a glimpse of what dangers driving on Baxter Street presents, though it’s from a more forward angle than drivers truly experience when situated further back in the car.
According to a recent Los Angeles Times piece, the street has historically been host to wrecks and bottomed-out trucks that can’t manage the crest of the hill. Speaking to the newspaper, Baxter Street resident Robbie Adams gave his account of the rising dangers at his doorstep. "Rain is a huge problem," Adams shared. "People start skidding and spinning. We had our garden wall knocked down twice, and my wife's car got hit in our own driveway. I've seen five or six cars smash into other cars, and it's getting worse."
While many of the accidents aren’t directly attributable to the hazards of heavy traffic, more traffic creates more opportunities for accidents, especially as apps guide unsuspecting drivers down the road.
Adams went so far as to reach out to Waze directly in a plea to spare his street any more commuter traffic but was met with a resolute “no,” he said, with the company stating that such a request would require a change to the firm’s algorithm.
Ideas being discussed include turning the narrow street into a one-way passage and eliminating left turns onto the road during heavy traffic, but both would create a new set of traffic issues for residents of the neighborhood.
Until a resolution is reached, Baxter Street will remain both a curiosity and a hazard for local drivers, and a very thrilling proposition for skateboarders and cyclists.