Thursday, July 14, 2011

Thoughts on "Carmageddon"

We're very happy to report that we won't be anywhere near Los Angeles County this weekend, when millions of Angelenos discover that Oakland minister Harold Camping was merely two months early in his prediction of the apocalypse. That's because a 10-mile stretch of the 405 freeway, encompassing the Sepulveda Pass and extending between the 101 in the Valley and the 10 in west LA, will be closed to all traffic between tomorrow evening and 5 am on Monday. The government is closing the road so that half of the Mulholland Drive bridge can be torn down to make room for new carpool lanes. That's right: a city that's shrugged at a 6.7 earthquake, out-of-control wildfires in the Santa Monica and San Gabriel Mountains, two instances of widespread rioting, and a devastating economic recession has finally freaked out over a two-day road closure. The LA Times has overflowed with columns suggesting ways to get around the city this weekend, stories of concerned workers wondering how they'll get to jobs on the Westside, and pieces discussing the history and politics of the project. JetBlue Airlines has even chipped in with a whimsical proposal: $4 flights on Saturday and Sunday between the Burbank and Long Beach airports.

The bridge that caused the apocalypse.

If we still lived in Santa Monica, we'd be dreading the flood of traffic on the Westside's surface streets. As far as any effects outside the communities right around the closure, we'd tend to agree with Reason's Tim Cavanaugh, who thinks that Carmageddon will be a "big nothing." With all the advance warning, most Angelenos are probably ready to minimize their travel or adjust their plans to avoid the inconvenience. But what's bugging us about the whole ordeal is this: the powers that be are using it to pontificate about L.A.'s dependence on freeways, and to extol the virtues of car-free, New Urbanist living. To us, it's a perfect moment to point out the virtues of privatizing roads. When you trust corrupt, mismanaged, and perpetually broke organizations (like, say, government bureaucracies) with the maintenance of something you and a million others use every day, these are the results you tend to get: unreliable and unsatisfactory service. When you trust the management to people whose livelihood depends on making you happy, you tend to see better results. We like to joke that we learned everything we needed to know about public ownership of land from driving on southern California's decrepit, jammed freeways; this weekend, the rest of L.A. will get a lesson in the type of "service" their public servants provide.


  1. My favorite was the local news story about how to pack an emergency bag in your car in case you get stuck in traffic and are forced to spend the night in your car.

    I've got an invitation to a "Carmageddon Pizza Party" in Culver City, just off Sepulveda (which, if you believe the news, will be a nightmarish stretch of road crawling with armed bandits straight out of The Road) on Saturday night. I am so interested to see what happens. If I die of starvation in my car, it's been fun reading your blog over the last few months.

  2. I think you'll pull through. Just be sure to watch 2012, Volcano, and Battle LA before you head out to the party. Those films are full of helpful information on surviving disasters in LA.