Sunday, July 10, 2011

Carmageddon!

They're closing a 10 mile stretch of the 405 freeway for construction this coming weekend, and everyone in LA is freaking out. The elaborate preparations and dire warnings for this event make it sound like some kind of natural disaster. Here is one humorous look at the situation:



The people who are already in a state of panic about this planned freeway closure are missing something. The fact is that every day in LA is already carmageddon. The worst feature of this city is that it is constantly choked with cars. Try to cross a normal street in this city and you may be taking your life in your hands. Turn on your radio in the morning and the traffic reports sound like war correspondents reporting from the front. Get on the freeway during rush hour--forget rush hour, get on the freeway pretty much anytime--and you can expect massive delays to appear at any moment. The 405 is already a parking lot most of the time. We need a break!

Instead of dreading the closure of a major freeway, we should be looking forward to it. We should be planning picnics, hikes and bike rides on the 405. We should be thinking about closing, or at least covering up, some of our freeways on a permanent basis, as I discussed in a previous post.

Instead of planning ways of speeding the traffic around all of the alternate routes, we should probably close some of them down also. If it were up to me, I'd love to try banning all driving within the city (with a few exceptions such as buses, taxis and emergency vehicles) for the entire weekend.

Imagine what it would be like to walk or ride a bike into town without having to dodge all the traffic. Imagine the quiet. Imagine breathing clean air and seeing the mountains around us without the haze of smog. If we abandon our cars entirely for the weekend, we could experience something better than our usual car-jammed city.


As long as I'm on the subject of widening the 405, does anyone think that completion of this billion dollar project is actually going to reduce traffic? Experience should tell us that it is far more likely that widening the road will just encourage more drivers to use it. Traffic will still be a nightmare. If we want to reduce traffic, what we need to do is REDUCE the number of cars on the road. You don't do that by widening the road. Widening the road might ease traffic flow for a while, but it is never going to reduce the number of cars on the road, and might even increase them, which makes the whole exercise self-defeating.  If you want to reduce the number of cars on the road, what you have to do is make it more expensive to drive (e.g., tolls, gas taxes, higher parking fees, and congestion itself), and create more and better alternatives to driving (e.g., public transportation, bike lanes, denser development). Perhaps this freeway widening project will help us all learn that lesson.


(photo from autoblog)

1 comment:

  1. When I went to LA to pick up my car I got stuck on the 4 or 5. It wasn't that bad but I'm sure glad I don't live down there.

    Time to stay at home for the weekend and relax if you live down there.

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