carmageddon, schmarmageddon: i live in long beach

July 15, 2011

T-minus 12 hours: countdown to Carmageddon begins now. According to every city official and easily-swayed news outlet in the country, tonight’s closure of a 10-mile stretch of the 405 will spark a ripple effect of car-henge chaos that will render every inch of greater Los Angeles’ freeway grid unusable.

Stay indoors or plan ahead, they warn, as if solar flares have made outdoor space hazardous territory. But like most of L.A.’s “Chicken Little” warnings–think STORMWATCH 2K9!!!!–I have a feeling this is going to be one big bust. Despite the large number of people that use the 10-to-101 stretch of 405 during the workweek, it is a relatively mellow ride on the weekends. If worrying about only diverting the drivers that use it by necessity (Westside-dwellers using it for north-south transport and Valley-to-L.A. travel), there isn’t that much to deal with. The problem is the rest of the car-dependent city that seems convinced that there is no such thing as a weekend unless you get on a freeway for some reason. A 10-mile closure over a non-holiday weekend should not cause widespread bumper-to-bumper or major delays, but for Angelenos that refuse to give up their auto-love, it will.

Hows about this, citizens of oh great hometown of mine: stay the fuck home. Better yet, walk somewhere. Ride a bike. Take the train. Don’t buy a plane ticket from Burbank to Long Beach for $4 because you can’t bear the thought of staying put for 72 hours. Don’t try to get to UCLA from the airport or visit your friend who lives off of National and Venice. Avoid the impacted area the same way that you would avoid driving the 110 through Downtown L.A. on a Laker game night or Figueroa on USC’s graduation day.

Use this weekend as an opportunity to stay local and get to know your own community instead of freaking out about how you can’t get to the Valley by car. Instead of fighting with the situation put in front of us and trying to figure out the easiest route to get to the Los Angeles Street Food Festival, we should accept the calling of the CalTrans gods and help our urban villages flourish. It’s amazing how much you can discover about an area just by walking down the street. So calm down, turn off your car and enjoy the staycation. Don’t worry, the freeway will be back in time for work on Monday.

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