Carmageddon Hype Causes Pre-Weekend Nightmare


Interstate 404 junction with Interstate 10, July 2011

There is plenty of journalistic malpractice going on with regard to the 53-hour closure of a stretch of Interstate 405 this weekend.

Closing the heavily traveled road connecting the west side of Los Angeles with the San Fernando Valley may well cause traffic problems around town — though based on apparently universal awareness of the impending closure, and observably lighter traffic on the 405 as this week has progressed, I'm guessing it will be a big nothing.

But I have not read a single word on this phenomenon that is in any way practical or geared toward minimizing the inconvenience. 

As it happens, Reason's office sits just off ground zero: Between the 405 and Sepulveda Blvd., south of the junction with Interstate 10, where the southern end of the closing will occur. (The 405 will be shut down north to the junction with U.S. Highway 101.) And I can tell you, the stuff being said about the 405 closing is multiple shades of stoopit: 


The 405 hosts about 500,000 vehicles over the course of a mid-July weekend, about 9,400 vehicles per hour. That's a lot, but it's not impossible to absorb over a 600-square-mile road network. Wilshire Blvd. alone [pdf] handles 2,896 vehicles per hour, and along some stretches as many as 4,292 vehicles ride Wilshire in an average hour. 

Wrong Directions 

But if the point of Carmageddon hype is to solve the impending problem, you would not be talking about Wilshire or any other surface street. The destination media, however, are talking about just that. In the Los Angeles Times, Rob Long advises diverting 405 traffic into the local streets. This makes no sense because the 405 is a freeway, a distance run, in this case from the airport to Sherman Oaks or vice versa. And for through traffic there are plenty of options. Just ten miles north of the closed zone the 405 links up with Interstate 5. Less than ten miles south it links up with Interstate 105 (which despite its high-sounding title is not even an Intercounty road, but is broad and so fast-moving that they filmed the original Speed on it). And there are all kinds of other numbers — 110, 710, 134, 210 — with incantatory powers if you just know how to use them. But even most of those nobody's going to have to use because…

Overhype 2: The Reoverhyping 

There are pretty clearly going to be fewer than 9,400 vehicles needing to redirect every hour this weekend. In fairness, huzzah to the panicking media and politicians on one tiny point: Awareness of Carmageddon has been raised locally and nationally. But the media and politicians still deserve to be skinned because of… 

Wrong Directions 2: U-Turn? No, You Turn

Long isn't alone in his surface street pontification, and he at least understands which surface streets will be affected. Not so ABC's Dave Lunz. In a how-to-survive-Carmageddon consumer piece, Lunz advises readers to take Olympic Blvd., because it moves fairly quickly when the 10 is jammed. Not only is this the wrong particular advice (Pico is generally a better option than Olympic), but it solves the non-problem of east-west traffic when it's a north-south route that's been closed. 

Carmageddon is slang for the closure of Interstate 405 between Interstate 10 and U.S. Highway 101, July 15-17, 2011.

Wrong Directions 3: The Final Direction 

Here's a shuttle service that plans to pitch in by offering rides along Sepulveda, the street that parallels the 405 and is the most likely to get spillover from the closing.

Here's Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa offering up the same smorgasbord of Smart-Growther, Chamber-of-Commerce, Polycentric, New-Urbanist flapdoodle California politicians shovel out at all other times: "Stay home, Shop LA, Do NOT Drive, Walk or Bike, Free Public Transportation."

Here's a Department of Transportation official offering up some patchwork of freeways for a hypothetical commuter.

Here's somebody suggesting you hang out at home and enjoy the sunshine — which sounds appealing but doesn't address the question of cutting off normal traffic while the government takes more than two days to dismantle a damn bridge.

The most relevant approach is JetBlue's offer of $4 helicopter rides from Long Beach to Burbank, which at least lands pretty close to the general areas that are going to be affected. (Though even that doesn't really address the problem: The point isn't just to get from the Westside to the Valley. It's to get there in your own car, like a grownup.) 

So far, the most sensible piece of journalism I've found on this issue is this from

As we prepare for this citywide cacophony, what comes to mind is how on a day no one can predict, people all over the world will unsuspectedly be going about daily life when Jesus Christ descends from Heaven in His Second Coming. That is when the true Armageddon will be ushered in. How long it takes to get to Home Depot, whether or not we make an early flight out of LAX, or the devastating drop in sales for retailers will make no difference at the moment the Lord of glory appears. In an instant, believers in Christ will be raptured out of this world, and the seven-year tribulation period will begin. This is not a theatrical sci-fi story or mythical fable – this is very real.

I'm not agreeing with Ci'Monique Green's position, just saying that among all the people talking about Carmageddon, she at least knows her subject. If Carmageddon occurs, it won't be because people ignored the experts but because they listened to them. 

NEXT: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2

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  1. Isn’t this part of the TARP bailout? The worst part is that they’re not really even widening the 405, they’re just adding an HOV lane. The easiest and cheapest way to improve traffic flow in every major city would be to open up HOV lanes to regular traffic.

    1. If you’ve ever driven the 405 south from the Valley into the westside, you’ll see that the HOV lane really isn’t an HOV lane as much as an HOV + douchebags in beamers that think they’re the flying spaghetti monster’s gift to Gaea driving it in clear violation of the law and full knowledge that they will maybe get pulled over and slapped with a $350 ticket once in their pathetic, banal, and vapid existences. They consider that very slim potential of a sacrifice worth the added convenience, self-righteousness, and schaudenfraude of whizzing past a plebe in a 1996 Ford Taurus dutifully obeying the law for fear of getting the violation.

      1. Are you on the 405 right now? Your distaste for other drivers is telling.

        1. Fuck the 405. There was a tow truck just chilling in the middle of rush hour causing traffic to go even slower.

          1. True California traffic story: a few weekends ago I got stuck in a terrible traffic jam on Sunday afternoon, on the 101 near Gilroy. The cause? A guy walking along the side of the freeway carrying a large wooden cross. I wish I were kidding.

            1. What? I was on my was to Santa Monica.

              1. This guy didn’t look like you.

      2. What’s wrong with civil disobedience? What if everyone ignored HOV lanes?

  2. Have I mentioned “Fuck California” lately?

    1. You should put that to this tune…

        1. Cute! And it’s about guns AND California! Libertarians ought to LUV it!!
          I’ll be driving out there AGAIN soon!

    2. Still better than Michigone!

      1. Anything is better than Michigan.

        And that’s coming from somebody that lives in the central valley!

  3. And still they get better marks than NYC…

    grumble grumble.

    Weather was *awesome* today, btw.

    1. PWN’ED!

  4. How is it even possible that Tim did not use this image for this article?….._super.jpg

    1. How is it possible Tim did not call it “Karmageddon”?

  5. I think I will remain in the gentle confines of my home this weekend. The only travel I will do will be paddling my canoe down a river of Kentucky bourbon.

  6. You know what? The public works department in my hometown won’t fill in the pothole on my street. I’ve called them 3 times.

    You guys care, right?

  7. I don’t think it’ll be quite the “big nothing” Tim suggests, but I think the effects will be confined to the West side. When I lived in Santa Monica, I recall it didn’t take much for those surface streets to become impassable. Otherwise, yeah, I’d agree that it’s not going to be a big problem in, say, Orange County.

    1. When I lived in Santa Monica, I recall it didn’t take much for those surface streets to become impassable.

      We refer to it as “6:00 PM.”

      1. Or “any time it’s hot in the Valley or the Inland Empire.

    2. I don’t think it’ll be quite the “big nothing” Tim suggests

      How can a traffic jam in LA not be a big nothing?

    3. You’ve put your finger on it. There are freeway options for getting from the South Bay to the Valley, but nothing to relieve the strain on the West Side. And that’s where all the hysterics live.

      Then again, nobody takes the 405 from Culver City to Westwood. You take it if you’re going a longer distance, and if you’re doing that you can replace the 405 with another freeway combination that will not add an unmanageable amount of time to your trip. The problem is that none of the experts are telling people to do that.

      1. Sure. There’ll be bad spots: Wilshire, Santa Monica, Sepulveda, Lincoln, and the interchanges at the 101, 10, and 105 near Sepulveda. But you’re probably right that most people will adjust their driving to the closure. It’ll probably be like one of those Saturdays in August when it’s 115 in Reseda and 110 in San Bernardino.

        1. Wilshire 63 degrees. Santa Monica, 63. Sepulveda, 63. Lincoln, 63. Reseda, checkin’ in at 63. San Berdoo, 63- I WILL DROP TROU!!!!!!!!

      2. Yes we do

  8. –the seven-year tribulation period–

    On the first skim through the article I thought that said seven-year masturbation period.

    1. Its like the “Seven Year Itch”

      1. Mine’s been itchy for longer than 7 years.

        1. I think they sell a cream for that.

        2. “Why does it hurt when I pee?”

  9. Considering how bad traffic can get when a single lane is shut down on the highway, it’s not that unreasonable to think shutting down a stretch of a major highway will do a lot more.

  10. What’s “Olympia Blvd”? Sounds nice.

    1. It’s pretty clear he meant Olympia St., which is on the North side of the Valley. Though I’m not sure it can handle the traffic flow.

      1. Ooh, thanks. Not only does it fix the spelling but it helped me find the piece I mentioned. Take a bow, ABC’s Dave Lunz!

  11. Things I learned from this post:

    1. Like every other big city, L.A. has road construction.

    2. Reason has an L.A. office.

    3. Every once in a while Cavanaugh takes a break from ripping his former colleagues at the L.A. Times.

    1. Fry: So you’re saying these aren’t the decaying ruins of New New York in the year 4000?

      Farnsworth: You wish! You’re in Los Angeles.

      Fry: But there was this gang of ten-year-olds with guns!

      Leela: Exactly, you’re in LA.

      Fry: But everyone is driving around in cars shooting at each other!

      Bender: That’s LA for ya!

      Fry: But the air is green and there’s no sign of civilization whatsoever.

      Bender: He just won’t stop with the social commentary.

      Fry: And the people are all phoneys. No one reads. Everything has cilantro on it…

  12. Kiewet’s doing the work, so you can bet your ass it’ll be done on time. Those guys are wired about as tight as you can get. I’ve yet to have any dealings with them that weren’t organized to a T. And I’ve dealt with them quite a bit in the last few years.

    Not to mention they’re gonna get a $200M bonus for getting it done on time, IIRC.

    1. Kiewit. Fucking spelling. How does it work?

  13. Here’s somebody suggesting you hang out at home and enjoy the sunshine ? which sounds appealing but doesn’t address the question of cutting off normal traffic while the government takes more than two days to dismantle a damn bridge.

    Correction there, Tim — it’s actually destroying half of a bridge, with the other half to be demolished and rebuilt in 11 months.

  14. don’t ya read the comments on this site? Why don’t you just commit suicide by putting up a map of your home addresses?

  15. I often think about moving to LA, so as to be around a radically different–but no more or less profound–sort of stupid.

    1. But won’t you just bring your own overpowering singularity of stupid and bend the stupid field in LA to match yours?

      This is a serious question. I expect a serious answer, using Globetrotter arithmetic.

    2. NO! Save yourself. It’s too late for me, but RUN!!!

  16. This comment board should be called Whine-ageddon, if not Bitchpocalypse.

  17. By the way, aren’t we overdue for an appearance by one of H&R’s lefty trolls extolling the virtues of publicly-maintained roads?

    1. Hey, we’ll get a taste of Somalian libertopia this weekend when we have no roads.

      1. “Where we’re going we don’t need roads.”

        1. Well played sir, well played.

    2. Even the trolls realize that blowing up a bridge to widen up the freeway for one carpool lane and then build another bridge to the tune of $1 billion is retarded.

  18. Man this blog has been fucking boring lately

    1. Also, fucking retarded.

    2. Yes, it has.

  19. BIG HEAD MODE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    1. * Editors Note Grrrrrrrrr stupid alzheimer’s it was Pedestrians With Stupid Heads.

  20. “But I have not read a single word on this phenomenon that is in any way practical or geared toward minimizing the inconvenience. ”

    I just read your entire article and I have to agree with this statement.

  21. Slow and go on the 405, watch out for brake lights- I WILL DROP TROU!!!!!

  22. thread jack…..53915.html

    Before when he claimed not to have an opinion about things, I gave him the benefit of the doubt, but then he DOES have an opinion, and we find that he’s an idiot.

    he wants to abuse the 1st amendment to save it.

    1. Wait, these election campaign thingies are still going on?

  23. Oh come on, what we all really want to see is a giant clusterfuck, preferably exacerbated by the project and freeway closure going into Wednesday of next week due to CalTrans incontinence.

  24. The marathon causes more traffic than this will.

  25. ok, I am slightly baffled. Of all the approaches that could have been take on this subject such as the fact that there was an alternate plan that that could have “saved $4 million to $10 million and between six months and a year of work”and only required shutting down the 405 for only one weekend, instead of two. Except for the self named “Mulholland Scenic Parkway Design Review Board” who wanted to hire a “world-class” architect to design a new landmark bridge and Historic preservation groups seeking an environmental impact report because
    the less costly bridge and road design were not in keeping with Mulholland Drive’s “unique and distinctly rustic character.”
    Tim chose the waaaaaa no one is telling me where to drive this weekend approach.

    1. You’re just finding out now that libertarians are whinny babies?

  26. You can always tell a Californian:

    Interstates are “The 405.” Normal people would say “I-405” or “Interstate 405.” What’s with the “the?”

    And don’t get me started on New Yorkers standing “on line”

    /try the veal

    1. Before I moved to California, I thought it was stupid too. Now it makes sense.

      If you live in a podunk town with one freeway, you call it “I-5” or “Interstate 5”. If there’s a state highway, you call it “Highway 99” or whatever.

      If you live in LA, you would waste a lot of time differentiating between “Interstate X”, “US Highway Y”, and “California ZZZ”. Instead you just say, “take the 101 to the 405 and exit at Century Boulevard.”

      There aren’t any stupid freeway names on the traffic reports either. I lived in Dallas for a few years, and never knew what freeways they were talking about.

    2. You can always tell a Californian

      I thought my assimilation was complete when my daughter naturally pronounced “orange” or-ange instead of arr-ange.

  27. Fooking LA pussies would never make the cut in Boston traffic.

    1. I was about to make the same comment, so I’ll phrase it differnently: “Get off the highway, find another road, and get a life you self-important fools!”

    2. I used to go to New England for weeks at a time for work. Every time I came back people would comment that I was driving more aggressively. You can be proud of that if you like, I guess.

      Patriots suck, BTW.

  28. I have driven a semi in most of the big cities west of the Mississippi and Los Angeles is still my favorite.Drivers seemed to be more aware of the needs of a large truck and were more courteous overall than all the other cities.
    The locals will adjust their routes accordingly and life will indeed go on.

  29. Hell, I was thinking about taking one of the $4 helicopter rides just for the the fun of it. That’s shit’s usually $50 for a quick loop of some grotty fairground.

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