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Road Sage

This Saturday, a lot of events means a lot of cars

October 03, 2008|Steve Hymon | Times Staff Writer

Do yourself a favor by treating the 10-110 freeway interchange in downtown L.A. on Saturday as if it's a fang-mouthed sand monster right out of the third "Star Wars" movie. Go nowhere near it. Why?

On paper, at least, Saturday promises to be an epic Los Angeles traffic day.

First, there are three big sporting events scheduled to begin within a 135-minute span: the USC-Oregon football game at the Coliseum at 5 p.m., the Cubs-Dodgers playoff game at Dodger Stadium at 7 and the Washington State-UCLA football game at the Rose Bowl at 7:15.

Combined, they are expected to attract at least 200,000 people and probably more. (This being L.A., could 200,000 people somehow manage to show up in 200,000 cars?)

But that's not all. At 8 p.m., Neil Diamond is scheduled to take the stage at Staples Center in downtown L.A. On the north side of downtown, the four streets surrounding City Hall will be closed from Friday evening through Sunday morning for the LA Weekly Festival.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Saturday, October 04, 2008 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 1 inches; 42 words Type of Material: Correction
Saturday traffic: An article in Friday's California section about heavy traffic expected in Los Angeles today from a combination of sporting, concert and political events said that the events included the Miracle Mile Run on Wilshire Boulevard. The run takes place Sunday.

And, just one block over on 2nd Street, there's a fundraiser for Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama on Saturday evening at the Edison. Sen. Hillary Clinton is scheduled to attend.

The Swell Season also has a show at the Greek Theatre on Saturday evening. And, earlier in the day, from 6 a.m. to 1 p.m., Wilshire Boulevard between Fairfax and Sycamore will be closed for the Miracle Mile Run. To finish the day, Lankershim Boulevard in North Hollywood closes at 9 p.m. Saturday for the NoHo Scene festival on Sunday.

If it makes you feel any better, the Hollywood Bowl is mercifully not booked on Saturday.

A few pieces of advice:

* Stay home Saturday and watch traffic deteriorate on Internet real-time traffic maps. Boring, but possibly satisfying.

* Put friends and family on super-high triple-red-alert and leave ridiculously early for your event if driving. If I were driving to the Dodger game, for example, I'd leave Friday night.

* If attending any of the events in downtown L.A., take mass transit. Both the Blue Line light rail and the subway have stops near Staples, and the subway also stops a couple of blocks from City Hall.

* The Dodger Stadium shuttle bus from Union Station is running Saturday, according to the Dodgers. It begins at 5:30 p.m. from Union Station and will run for at least an hour after the game back to the train station. Expect lines.

Good luck out there.

Engineers' hands

The same day federal investigators confirmed that a Metrolink engineer was text-messaging just before his train crashed into a Union Pacific freight on Sept. 12, I spoke to George Elsmore, program manager for the rail operations and safety branch of the California Public Utilities Commission. I had a simple question: What do engineers have to do with their hands while driving a train?

Elsmore explained that there are four basic hand controls that engineers use to operate a train: a throttle that can be set in one of eight different positions, two brake valves and a horn valve. Unlike with a car, the engineer doesn't have to be pressing or holding the throttle for it to run.

In other words, it is possible to run a train with no hands or one hand on the controls, Elsmore said, adding that it's not advisable given the different speed limits that Metrolink trains encounter.

"With these Metrolink trains, think of them as somewhat of a sports car," Elsmore said. "They accelerate and decelerate at a much quicker rate than a typical freight train. The object for the locomotive engineer is to maintain an optimal time schedule. They basically memorize the track speed and so in order to go up and down in that speed, he's got to be pretty much making frequent manipulations of those controls, either applying the brakes or applying the throttle.

"At any given time, his left hand should be engaged, but it doesn't have to be," Elsmore added. "But the most important senses are his brain and his eyes, making sure he's observing the necessary wayside signals. If he's not looking ahead and doesn't see one of those, then he doesn't know what to do with his hands."

Fuming mad

My colleague Rene Lynch sent over this nice little traffic rant the other day:

"The northbound traffic on the 5 Freeway had ground to a halt at about 8:15 a.m. Tuesday morning, just about five miles south of downtown Los Angeles. I briefly considered getting out of my car and tapping on the window of the silver Lexus SUV in front of me to ask: Do you think the world is your ashtray?

"If you wouldn't consider putting the cigarettes out in the ashtray of your fancy schmancy SUV with the vanity license plates, or crushing it into the floorboards, why do you throw it onto the side of MY freeway? That is so disgusting!

"Where's a CHP officer when you need one?"

Rene tells me that the Lexus had a vanity plate that suggests it had just been fixed. Perhaps the driver is your friend, your spouse or neighbor. If so, feel free to pass along the link to The Times' Bottleneck Blog -- and they can leave a comment on their own misbehavior!

--

steve.hymon@latimes.com

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