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Evening traffic on the 405 Freeway in West Los Angeles was so sparse last week that 24-year-old Jerrold Smith II took out his iPhone and recorded it for posterity.

“Just so no one thinks I’m crazy, it’s 6 o’clock,” Smith said, wonder in his voice, as he drove south toward the 10 Freeway. Normally one of America’s worst bottlenecks, the interchange had barely a dozen cars nearby.

As coronavirus fears have swept Southern California, and reported cases of COVID-19 have surged in Los Angeles County, commuters still going to work have encountered a strangely unsettling phenomenon: a lack of traffic jams.

Free-flowing traffic seems more a cause for mourning than celebration as the region grapples with the pandemic. The dream of traffic getting better, Los Angeles commuters say, didn’t include a scenario like this.

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