Carmageddon, the non-news item of the century was this past weekend in my lovely city of Los Angeles. For about a solid month, the media has been in uproar over the closure of the 405 freeway between the 10 and 101 freeways, blocking off the lovely corridor through the Hollywood Hills, past the Getty Museum, and onward to UCLA (or the San Fernando Valley, depending on which direction you are traveling).
Why was this a news item, spanning the pages of everything from the New York Times to the BBC International News website? Because us Angelinos do not know what to do without our cars. Now of course, some outsider might ask, isn’t there another road? There are surface streets, but nothing to rival the concrete monster of the 405 freeway. Everyone was predicting the world would end as angry Angelinos were stranded in the hot summer sun, road rage increasing with every step of dehydration.
But the world didn’t end. And traffic was shockingly non-existent. People enjoyed each other’s company. They realized they didn’t have to travel miles to go to that one store. There might be something they liked in their own neighborhood. And in mine? The farmers’ market was packed. Eaton Canyon was overflowing with hikers. People went to the beach. And were nice to each other. The kids next door put up a lemonade stand and the neighbors bought some. I picked up a friend at the airport and after going back to her house, we walked down to a pizza place and then a wine bar. We walked. Other people walked. Some people biked and took the bus. Nobody was stranded.
And today in the L.A. Times, people were quoted saying the felt like they lived in a small town and even the self-centered Hollywood type wanted to know, couldn’t we act this way everyday?
Update: Slate has a great piece on the Tour de Carmageddon, a race between cyclists and some people taking a flight from Burbank to Long Beach. JetBlue offered a $4 flight for anyone willing to fly between the two airports, during the 405 closure. The bicyclists won at an hour and 34 minutes, but in the process another guy entered the contest by means of walking and taking the Metro. His time was an hour and 44 minutes, further proof that the LA Metro does work.