Politics

Carmageddon: L.A.'s Biggest Nothing Since Tom Bradley

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Carmageddon: Fast moving traffic on Interstate 10 July 16 2011

As was predicted twice by me, the traffic meltdown that politicians and the destination media were predicting would be caused by the closing of a stretch of Interstate 405 in Los Angeles has utterly failed to happen. 

U.S. Highway 101 is wide open: 

Carmageddon: Downtown Los Angeles along U.S. Highway 101 July 16 2011

So is the normally densely packed Interstate 110: 

Carmageddon: Traffic light on Interstate 110 Downtown July 16 2011.

So is Interstate 10, where Los Angeles County did not even do drivers the courtesy of actually covering up its 405-North Exit sign over the weekend: 

Carmageddon: Light traffic on Interstate 10 July 16 2011.

So is Los Angeles International Airport: 

Carmageddon: Light traffic at LAX July 16 2011.

So is Interstate 105: 

Carmageddon: Light traffic on Interstate 105 July 16 2011.

So remains Sepulveda Blvd., where the headquarters of Reason waits with quiet dignity for the return of building-side advertising: 

Carmageddon: Light traffic outside Reason Magazine on Sepulveda Blvd. July 16 2011.

Have I missed any of the Ground Zeros? 

Yes! The northern closing of the 405. Perhaps it's only up in the San Fernando Valley that the mindless hordes of drivers, momentarily deprived of quality government road service, have turned to cannibalism, revolution, and unsightly tatouage. 

Not so much. Here's the grisly scene on Ventura Blvd. just off the 405, Ground Zero North for total societal breakdown: 

Carmageddon: Light traffic on Ventura Blvd. July 16, 2011.

I'd doubt I'm the first joker to point out that Carmageddon turned out instead to be the Rapture, mystically depopulating the city. Here's the closest thing to that joke I've found. In any event, you read it here first and you're reading it here again: Carmageddon was a big nothing. 

I spend a lot of time mocking the pretensions of mainstream journalism, but Carmageddon has reminded me of one point on which reporters really have some authority: You have to work in the news to understand how stupid the news is. 

In this case, the vacating of L.A.'s streets in the middle of summer will be seen as a success, and while everybody's breathing a sigh of relief, nobody will remember what a pain in the ass it was to make way for the addition of a carpool lane that will do little to relieve the actual day-to-day congestion on the 405. 

Or actually, they'll remember it next year, when the second half of this project is slated to be done, and we will all have to go through this charade again. 

In addition to the failures of disclosure I noted in earlier posts, and the exit-sign snafu I noted above, the DOT also missed another chance to keep traffic flowing. At both the south and north closing sites, cops have just put up a dead-end roadblock and diverted stragglers onto either another freeway or surface streets: 

Carmageddon: Interstate 405 closed at Interstate 10 July 16 2011.
Carmageddon: Interstate 405 closed at U.S. Highway 101 July 16 2011.

So the few knuckleheads who remain unaware of the closing don't get to make easy u-turns on a closed freeway, which would be the best way to sort out their traffic problem. Instead, they are forced onto a different route. 

Fortunately there aren't too many such numbskulls because people are not stupid. They adapted to this government-created problem and will do the same next year. And for their efforts they'll be expected to show appreciation for a government that provides road service at a massive cost in taxes, inconvenience and poor road conditions

And that's not even counting the cost to the economy. Los Angeles is effectively closed for business this weekend, and while it has created a pleasant snowstorm feeling, it's not exactly a recession-slayer. The only tourists I spoke with were a nice German family and a nice French family. (Both families were aware of the closing of some major freeway, but seemed puzzled by the hysteria. No doubt they will return to their native lands of clogging and bocce with tales of how car-crazed Americans are.) Local retailers and restaurateurs, not yet schooled in the broken-window fallacy, are doing their best to take advantage of the business they hope this hyperpocalyptic catastrogeddon will generate: 

Carmageddon: Sherman Oaks Galleria offers specials July 16 2011.
Carmageddon: Valley Inn Restaurant offers specials July 16 2011.

These efforts appear to be unavailing: 

Carmageddon: Empty ArcLight dining area July 16 2011.
Carmageddon: Empty Sherman Oaks Galleria July 16 2011.

But don't worry. Large complements of police and meter maids are deployed at both ends of the closed section of the 405. Because you never know when somebody might panic: 

Carmageddon: Los Angeles Police and County Sheriff's Deputies occupy Ventura Blvd. July 16 2011.