Stay local, L.A.
August 2, 2012
In the days after Carmageddon turned Los Angeles into a car-free Carmaheaven last summer, one of the comments I heard most often was: “Can you do this every month? We had a ball right in our own neighborhood.”
Unfortunately—or fortunately, depending on how you look at it—closing down the nation’s busiest freeway for an entire weekend isn’t something we do very often. But it is something we have to do one more time so that workers can demolish the north side of the Mulholland Bridge over the 405 Freeway in the course of 53 hours during the last weekend in September.
Carmageddon II, as we’re calling it, is an essential part of the project to modernize and add capacity to this heavily traveled stretch of freeway. And like the last time, this lengthy planned shutdown carries with it the potential for serious gridlock throughout the region if motorists ignore the warnings to steer clear of the area.
But it’s also an opportunity.
With so much going on around town and so many self-imposed pressures to stay constantly on the go, we rarely give ourselves permission to take the weekend off and savor the pleasures of simply hanging out in our own neighborhoods.
Los Angeles, consider this your permission slip. And while you’re at it, give your car the weekend off, too.
Your local business owners will thank you for it. Last summer, many of them took a hit during Carmageddon. This time around, there’s no reason to tank the local economy just to help make Carmageddon II a success. Local restaurants, shops and movie theaters are eager for your business. Whether you rediscover your neighborhood on foot, bike or public transportation, you’ll be doing them—and the rest of us—a big favor by staying close to home.
This isn’t just some feel-good exercise. It’s essential to getting through another potential traffic mess just as successfully as we did the last time. After all, the 405 is part of a massive, interconnected system. Its connecting freeways, the 10 and the 101, have plenty of their own heavy traffic to contend with at the best of times, and are also likely to feel the impact if motorists decide to tempt fate and venture out onto local roadways during Carmageddon II.
The good news is that Los Angeles drivers are as savvy as they come. Last summer, a healthy measure of fear, public spiritedness and enlightened self-interest kept most people off the roads during Carmageddon. A team of experts from UCLA and Rand analyzed the data and found traffic was down in some areas by more than 70%, compared to a typical summer weekend.
There’s no reason to think we can’t do that again. In fact, there’s more reason than ever for all of us to do our part.
Construction crews will once again be battling the clock, only this time they will have one-third more work to do in the same amount of time. Last year, they were able to finish early. This year, they’re likely to need all the time available—from the first lane closures at 7 p.m. on Friday, September 28 until the freeway reopens at 6 a.m. on Monday, October 1. For these workers, the pressure is on, big time.
For the rest of us, there’s another kind of pressure: to live up to our past Carmageddon success without getting complacent.
But the rewards are many. So please, mark your calendar and start planning to spend the last weekend of September eating, shopping and playing close to home. See you around the neighborhood.