CHP officers chat on an empty stretch of the 405 Freeway in the Sepulveda… (Mark Boster, Los Angeles…)
We didn't just survive "Carmageddon" last weekend, we basked in it. Neighbors had dinner together. Angelenos strolled to their local coffee shops and biked around town. County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky gushed that Los Angeles residents "have turned Carmageddon into Carmaheaven." People waxed wistfully that we should do this every weekend.
Well, no, we can't do it every weekend. Just as Carmageddon was a construction success because time was built into the schedule for things to go wrong (nothing did), it was a logistics success because people meticulously planned and — don't smirk — sacrificed for it. Errands and cross-city trips were postponed; wedding dates were changed. On a sunny July day, many people didn't go to the beach. The Getty Center in Brentwood shut down for the weekend, as did the Skirball Cultural Center. Meanwhile, the Hammer Museum in Westwood encouraged locals to walk in. Some merchants made extraordinary arrangements to keep their businesses open without having to commute — and then lost business because customers didn't show up.
There was a small uptick in public transportation ridership — 15% to 20% — on the subway, Metro Orange Line busway and the Metro Green Line. And ridership figures for Saturday were up 50% over the week before on the Metrolink line between Union Station and Oceanside — with most of that increase being riders coming into Los Angeles. But regular Metro bus lines had either normal or slightly lighter ridership. So if you traveled to L.A. from Orange County, you were too terrified to drive and took the train. Otherwise, the streets were gridlock-free largely because people didn't go anywhere that presented even the remote possibility of a harrowing journey in a car.
While it was a lovely staycation, the reality of the sprawling Los Angeles metropolis is that, for the time being at least, most Angelenos are going to keep driving their cars seven days a week to get to work, school, friends' houses, the beach, kids' soccer games, stores. If construction had gone awry, and Carmageddon had lasted into the work week, traffic would have been miserable — or we would have stayed home from work. Tempting, but we couldn't have done it for long.
Still, it was nice to be reminded that it's possible to get out of traffic. So let's make a plan. They've got to tear down the north side of the Mulholland Drive bridge next summer. Let's do it again. Say, same time next year?