Waze Makes One Of the Steepest Hills In America a Traffic Disaster

Echo Park's Baxter Street looks like a reasonable shortcut on a map of Los Angeles, but it doesn't take the road's 32 percent grade into account.

Waze is famous for recalculating routes to avoid traffic tie-ups—sometimes to the dismay of neighborhoods where drivers are redirected. I once accidentally followed directions from Waze onto a ferry. Others have driven into the water without the aid of a boat. Other navigation hazards exist on land, as some unfortunate drivers in the Echo Park neighborhood of Los Angeles have discovered.

Baxter Street is one of the steepest roads in America, with a 32 percent grade that rivals San Francisco’s more famous hills. But Waze only thinks in two dimensions, and often sends unsuspecting drivers to tax their cars up and down the steep grades of Baxter Street as a “shortcut.” 

Google Maps

“A lot of people can’t make it up the hill,” Baxter Street resident Robbie Adams told the Los Angeles Times. “It’s too steep, and they don’t know how to drive up. So they stop and try to back down, and it’s a mess because people are coming up behind them.”

Rain makes the situation even worse. “The car came through our garden, went through two fences and ended up backward hanging over our driveway,” resident Jason Luther told the Los Angeles Times.

The perils of Baxter Street are not new to Los Angeles. But the rise in popularity of navigation apps has led to a significant increase in traffic from unsuspecting drivers who don’t know the area.

Residents have asked Waze to eliminate Baxter Street from the app as a shortcut route but were told the app is unable to comply. Changes to traffic laws are now being considered, such as making Baxter Street one-way or prohibiting turns onto it from certain roads at certain hours. This would require Waze to tell drivers to avoid the road, but would also inconvenience Echo Park residents who would have to comply with these laws as well.