Sunday, July 17, 2011

Why Carmageddon is Important

Well, here we are, in the middle (as of this writing) of the 405 closure between the 10 and the 101, a.k.a. Carmageddon. As a resident of the greater Los Angeles area who doesn't have to work near the affected area, I can confidently report that it is having little noticeable effect on my life, except that I have to confess I think it's really important.

That may seem strange, so let me explain. The past couple of weeks have seen a flurry of media coverage. Public interest has been piqued and people are actually thinking about transportation policy. Is it worth it to shut down the 405 twice to demolish and rebuild a bridge so that we can add a carpool lane in one direction at a cost of about $1 billion? That question is in the press being hotly debated at a time when Metro is building lots of new rail projects, is about to start a congestion pricing experiment on the 110 and the 10, and has more freeway widenings in the pipeline, largely thanks to the 2008-passed Measure R Los Angeles County sales tax. Full disclosure: I voted for this tax because it allocates more money to transit than to freeways.

Carmageddon is important on another level too. It reveals how insecure a lot of people feel without unfettered access to the roadway network. Although the 405 opened in the 1960s, it seems as if it's been a part of Los Angeles since time immemorial. To lose access to it, even for a weekend, is, for many, to have one's sense of order upended. How will I get around without unfettered access to my roads? Could I really do things like walk to a nearby store? Could I really ride a bike? Could I really ride a train or (gasp) bus? Could I really just stay home and relax instead of driving all over town this weekend?

Carmageddon raises a lot of good questions, and that's why it's important. I'm not a fan of spending a billion dollars on a freeway widening through the Sepulveda Pass, which will almost certainly generate more traffic and cancel out its "benefit" to driving speed, but at least I'm getting some return on my tax contributions. This is really high-quality entertainment. I can't wait for the sequels.


  1. Good insight. We had a mini carmagedon on the 101 yesterday and I was really missing my bike.

  2. Carmageddon is every day in LA. The "Carmageddon weekend" was the first time since I've lived here when people DIDN'T drive every where all weekend. It was lovely.