Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Carmageddon--Christmas In July

As I had hoped, the parallel to the Bay Bridge closure a couple of years ago did hold up when the 405 Freeway was closed for bridge removal this past weekend. One of the best descriptions of how Carmageddon really turned out was "Christmas In July." However, I think the best meaning of this description is not necessarily the one intended by the person who coined it. Yes, Carmageddon was Christmas in July as Los Angeles had a weekend full of free flowing traffic. This has led to the next question of why it can't be like this all the time, or at least on an occasional basis. This is where "Christmas in July" hits the nail on the head. Christmas, the wonderful time of year when most everybody is happy and people are nice to each other, can only come once a year, when people are ready to depart from their normal everyday behavior to be happy, jolly and nice. So too, Carmageddon was a radical departure from most people's behavior pattern as people basically stayed home. Freeway traffic throughout the Los Angeles area was down by two thirds. The beaches were empty on a sunny California weekend. Restaurants and stores were empty, to the extent that in Westwood Village businesses closed down on early on Saturday due to a lack of business. Even traffic in Orange County, dozens of miles away from the Sepulveda Pass, was significantly lighter. Most stunningly, the canyon roads between the San Fernando Valley and West L.A., which are typically overflowing even when the 405 freeway is open, were hardly traveled when the 405 was closed. We truly witnessed abnormal behavior which will be difficult to replicate. Indeed, when Carmageddon II occurs in a year for a similar closure of the 405 freeway, will it be like the boy who cried wolf and true chaos next time around? Who knows.

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