Terrorized Drivers in L.A. Need 60-Day Carmageddon II Warning

Monday, July 23, 2012

It is generally never too early to start plotting one’s trek across Los Angeles by car, but two months might be a bit too long.

Last year, the city spent months preparing drivers for “Carmageddon,” an inescapable epic traffic jam that was expected to lock up the city during a 53-hour closure of the well-traveled 405 Freeway that connected the Westside of town to the San Fernando Valley and beyond.

The July disaster didn’t happen. People stayed home. But wary of complacency after last year’s false alarm, the city is ramping up its early warning system again because the same freeway is going to get whacked in late September.

The 2011 closure, to facilitate work on ramps and bridges, was part of a $1 billion, 10-mile carpool lane construction project and was expected to make life unbearable for anyone who ventured near it or was seeking an alternative to their regular drive.  

No one really knew what the 500,000 people who normally traveled the stretch of freeway on a weekend would do.   

Reuters news service predicted a jam of “biblical proportions” and noted that “few motorists in America's second-largest city take a breezy attitude toward the closure.” Hollywood celebrities were paraded across the airwaves warning motorists to stay away from the area. The tourist industry tried to redirect people to Las Vegas or the Eastern Sierras.

Those who couldn’t escape being in the area because of work commitments were encouraged to find lodging near their jobs. JetBlue Airways offered $4 (that is not a typo) one-way tickets to fly from one local airport to another to beat the traffic, and sold out in three hours.

Helicopter companies pedaled taxi service to the wealthy, although not all their customers were trying to get from here to there. Adventure Helicopter Tours offered 45-minute tours of the traffic hell, complete with champagne, for $400 per couple.

Not much has changed this year. L.A. County Metropolitan Transportation Authority officials are warning of gridlock and city officials are alternately praising drivers for doing the right thing last year while warning them about the penalties for bad behavior.

The helicopter tour offers have yet to materialize, but there is still two months to go.

–Ken Broder


To Learn More:

Carmageddon II: LA Drivers Told to Prepare for Another 10-Mile 405 Freeway Closure (Associated Press)

Carmageddon Part 2: Don't be Complacent, L.A. Mayor Warns (by Ari Bloomekatz, Los Angeles Times)

Los Angeles Braces for Weekend of “Carmageddon” (by Jason Kandel, Reuters)

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