It’s only been a few days since the Carmageddon non-event in Los Angeles ended. The 405 is back open, and the real daily nightmare of the 405 commute is back. As usual, the freeway is clogged and the east/west arteries that go under and feed into the 405 (Santa Monica, Wilshire, Olympic, Pico, etc.) are moving at the usual snail’s pace. It still takes me around 35 minutes to drive the 9 miles from my home in West Hollywood to Santa Monica and 20th (in Santa Monica) for a 5 minute appointment.
I’ve lived in LA all my life (51 years so far) and I was here for Y2k (everyone stayed home) as well as the 1984 Olympics. I can attest that traffic was never better in LA during the Olympics. People took vacations. Businesses changed their hours of operations and put workers on different schedules, including early/late hours, 4-day work weeks and working at home, going into the office only when needed. People even carpooled – many for the first time ever (this was 1984).
I think the LA Times editorial page summed things up best on July 19, 2011:
Killer bees never did swarm the Southwest, the Y2K bug was squashed, the world didn’t end on May 21 and “Carmageddon” wasn’t. Now that we’ve finished freaking out about the weekend closure of 10 miles of the 405 Freeway, can we do something about the fact that it’s Carmageddon every single day in West Los Angeles?
Last weekend demonstrated that Angelenos really can change their driving behavior if they’re motivated to do so. It’s not the first time they’ve done it. During the 1984 Olympics, when the pre-event hype about traffic nightmares was at least as intense as the media warnings about Carmageddon, commuter traffic across the city was a breeze. It’s not hard to get people out of their cars during extraordinary events; the tough thing is doing it on a daily basis.
I’ve been poking around YouTube for a good time-lapse video that isn’t copyrighted by a news channel, and I found this one. It’s well shot and has some great camera positions. It’s worth the 4 minutes and 5 seconds: