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Car Culture

Why Streetsblog Doesn’t Write More About Carmageddon

Given the hysteria surrounding this minor event, it's hard to tell when people are being tongue in cheek. I think ##http://www.facebook.com/pages/Carmageddon-Los-Angeles-405-closed-716-DONT-Drive/231534140193036##this Facebook group##, which is encouraging people to give up their cars for the weekend, is doing that. Photo:Don't Drive Carmageddon/Facebook

Unless you've been living under a rock, a rock that doesn't have Internet service, radio, television, print publications, carrier pigeons, bike message service or regular mail, you've been bombarded with messages about how awful next weekend is going to be. You see, to expand the already gargantuan 405 Freeway another lane in each direction, Metro and Caltrans are going to have to close 10.5 miles of said freeway between the I-10 and I-110 from Friday night until Monday morning. The press has dubbed it "Carmageddon." I have dubbed it "this weekend."

Why aren't I concerned? Why isn't Streetsblog concerned?  Because I have faith that Angelenos aren't idiots. There are 527 miles of freeway and 382 miles of conventional highway in Los Angeles County. I believe that given the hysteria from the media and politicians in the past months, that everyone pretty much knows what's going to happen and will avoid traveling the area unless they have to for work or a major event that can't be moved such as a wedding. Those faced with traveling to those events are smart enough to leave early.

Speaking of the coverage, the entire over-the-top nature of the panic-inducing media assault is revealing about what the elites in this city think of Angelenos. They really believe that a weekend a fraction of a percentage of the local freeway system is closed is going to create a panic. If you contrast their coverage of just over fifty hours of 10 miles of the 405 to their run-of-the mill coverage whenever bus riders lose hundreds of thousands of yearly service hours permanently, it really paints a picture.

Inconvenience drivers of a certain section of road for one weekend. Panic. Cut hundreds of thousands of hours of bus service permanently. Yawn.

Nobody should take our boredom with Carmageddon to mean that we don't believe that attempts to capitalize on the media-created hysteria to make a point aren't a good idea. GOOD Magazine's Alissa Walker is proposing that the City and State commemorate Carmageddon by holding a yearly car-free day. At The Source, Fred Camino argues that Carmageddon should be a symbol that L.A. needs to get serious about true multi-modalism. Last week in an L.A. Weekly article by Gene Maddaus, I made the case that the costs of freeway widenings are much higher than the benefits.

Whatever happens this weekend will paint a picture.  Will the City of Angels and the surrounding county rise up and meet this pretty minor challenge, or has Car Culture gripped the heart of this city so tightly that even the media is right and the most minor of inconveniences is a call for a local apocalypse.

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