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‘Carmageddon’ in L.A.

Posted by on July 15th, 2011 at 1:17 am

In case you haven’t heard, a 10-mile stretch of I-405 in of Los Angeles — one of the busiest freeways in the country — is set to close Friday through Monday. The project has transcended transportation and has become a spectacle before it has even started. Dubbed “Carmageddon,” it is dominating headlines throughout the area as people brace for unknown consequences of having a main traffic artery completely cut off for 53 hours (unfortunately, the LAPD squashed hopes for big block parties, parades, and bike rides on the freeway during the closure).

For those of you interested in transportation culture, this is a fascinating case study.

What will happen to all the traffic? Will it lead to “the mother of all traffic jams”? Or will people heed the warnings from officials and simply stay home? Or, will it really be no big deal?

“Stay home” is what officials (and paid celebrities like Erik “Ponch” Estrada) are urging Los Angelenos to do. It’s as if, without a freeway to drive on, mobility is impossible.

That’s where JetBlue Airways comes in. In a brilliant PR stunt, JetBlue offered $4 flights between Long Beach and Burbank (pay $1 more and you can go first class) as part of their “Over-the-405” special. The 600 tickets sold out in three hours.

Then something awesome happened.

Bike activists started chatting amongst themselves, then on Twitter, then an idea took root. Could someone riding a bike beat JetBlue? Late this afternoon, the informal chatter became a real event. With JetBlue as a willing participant, members of the Wolfpack Hustle (an L.A. bike club known for high-speed riding) will race a flight from Burbank to Long Beach to see who’s faster.

Fun and games aside, this event is a big opportunity for advocacy. Many people are using it to shine a light on L.A.’s car abuse problem and are offering alternative visions.

Stay tuned for the end of the world as Los Angelenos know it. There’s even an official countdown clock…

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Rol
Guest

The whole Carmageddon story is just so WUSSY. I want to pat everyone on the head and say “It’s okay sweetie.”

Steven Fleming
Guest

A marvelous day! Those cyclists will romp it in with time to spare. I wish the architectural critic Reyner Banham were here to witness. He wrote some wonderful essays about Angelenos’ “acquiescence in an incredibly demanding man/machine system” (that’s a direct quote btw). Banham rode a Moulton F-Frame.

Hugh Johnson
Guest
Hugh Johnson

I hate to say it, but if you closed down any stretches of the freeways here in Portland, we’d have our very own “Carmageddon”.

Chris I
Guest
Chris I

At least with I-84, I-5 in NoPo, or I-205 in SE, you have a MAX line paralleling the freeway. Looking at the 405 in L.A., there are no good public transit options nearby. If we had this here, there would still be a backup, but it probably wouldn’t be as bad, as TriMet could run 5min headways on MAX.

Vinny
Guest
Vinny

ODOT closed down Portland’s I-405 two times each way for 55 hours at a time two summers ago. The detours on surface streets were pretty slow.

kittens
Guest
kittens

405 is not that busy save for the traffic heading to/fm 26

Martin
Guest

Portland gets major car transit disruptions almost every winter whenever we get a snow that sticks on the highways. I dont remember any calmities the last few times, people just stay home and read or go out and play on foot. The cars, for the most part, stay parked contently.

Paul Souders
Guest

Am I the only person to remember what happened to traffic when they closed the Embarcadero after Loma Prieta? Or the temporary closure of the Santa Monica freeway (1-2mos IIRC) after Northridge? Or, for that matter, traffic in Tokyo & other Japanese cities since March this year?

(Answer: not much.)

The world didn’t end and traffic didn’t become unbearable. (In San Francisco commutes IMPROVED slightly for a month or two.) People adjusted their behavior, some switching to transit or biking, most just taking alternative routes on more surface streets.

John Lascurettes
Guest

I often site the closure of the Embarcadero freeway as a prime example of the argument for killing the east-bank I-5 Freeway in Portland. It would be awesome to have the banks to our river back. San Francisco survived just fine without the freeway (and dare I say, it had much more traffic than Portland’s freeway does).

Jack
Guest
Jack

Regarding the bike vs. plane race, if done fairly (the clock starts when participants leave their respective homes and ends when they reach their actual destination, not just the other airport) the cyclists will probably win by at least an hour. I wouldn’t be surprised if they cyclists were at their destination(s) before the plane got off the ground.

Airplanes are fast, sure. But there’s a lot more to air travel than airplanes.

sabernar
Guest
sabernar

I think that’s the whole point.

Jeff
Guest
Jeff

That’s questionable, as to what the real point of any of it was anyway.

fw
Guest
fw

It is totally possible to drive around LA and never take the freeways and public transit isn’t terrible either. The problem with bike commuting is that most folks work 10 or more miles from where they live. That’s just too far for most people.

Schrauf
Guest
Schrauf

EVERY day is Carmageddon in Southern California.

Jack
Guest
Jack

+1. I’ve driven on one of those 8-lane-each-way highways just once and will never do it again. It was late in the evening and the problem was actually lack of traffic (or more specifically, lack of law enforcement). With the open road there were all these crappy cars with $10k in aesthetic accessories zipping around at 100+ mph.

john
Guest
john

Just to add some tidbits.. its interesting that LA use to have the most extensive mass transit system in the world, by far ! And that is the reason LA became so “spreadout”… the system though was largely set up by real estate developers and unfortunately the city never took charge and planned a central station, etc… People also fell in love with cars and simply stopped using mass transit..

Spencer Boomhower
Guest

” its interesting that LA use to have the most extensive mass transit system in the world, by far !”

But then the evil Judge Doom bought the whole thing up with the sole intention of destroying it, just so everyone would have to use the new freeway he was going to build once he had made way for it by destroying Toontown.

Everything I know about LA I learned from the movies.

Chris I
Guest
Chris I
Spencer Boomhower
Guest

Ayep. And when Bob Hoskins says, “Who needs a car in L.A.? We have the best public transportation system in the world, ” it’s both a little funny and a little sad.

esther c
Guest
esther c

I went to LA for the first time last month to my nephews graduation and could not believe the mess down there. 45 minutes to go 8 miles from Santa Monica to Westwood on a Sunday afternoon.

Martin
Guest

that sounds like a nice ride….

Lenny Anderson
Guest

“Build it, and they will come.” Close it, and they will go away. Let’s try this with the Eastbank Freeway in Portland and reclaim the eastbank of the Willamette River for better uses.

banjo
Guest
banjo

How can anyone not have heard about Carmageddon, its all people have been talking about for the last 2 weeks with probably more coverage than the deficit talks? 🙂

This is what happens when you build a living arrangement so dependent on 1 inefficient mode.

Dave
Guest
Dave

I’m laughing my ass off over reports of this. Old tire tracks of mine may still be in the dust along the Sepulveda Blvd. frontage road from my hundreds of trips over that pass–I grew up in L.A. and did my first ten years of serious cycling there. How many Angelenos will discover their neighborhoods and are able to do their shopping, eating out, etc. within them at walking distance!

Skid
Guest
Skid

You guys know that I-5 runs practically alongside it right? There’s also the 110 and 605 freeways running parallel. Or just go over to US 1 for a scenic ride up the coast.

marshmallow
Guest
marshmallow

Yeah, I lived there for years. I just took alternative freeways when things backed up. The lack of rain makes traffic faster. Most freeways are dead straight so there’s no curves to slow jam. Also motorcycles can lane share.

Skid
Guest
Skid

Yeah no lanesplitting in Oregon is the main reason I parked my motorcycle and got a bicycle when I moved here.

JW
Guest
JW

“The cities will be part of the country; I shall live 30 miles from my office in one direction, under a pine tree; my secretary will live 30 miles away from it too, in the other direction, under another pine tree. We shall both have our own car. We shall use up tires, wear out road surfaces and gears, consume oil and gasoline. All of which will necessitate a great deal of work… enough for all.”
-Le Corbusier, 1967

spare_wheel
Guest
spare_wheel

The bike vs plane race is a truly terrible idea. This will encourage anarchic speed-racing, scare pedestrians, irritate motorists, and embarrass law-abiding cyclists. Moreover, this race sends the message that you need to wear lycra, ride a high-end road bike, and shave your legs to commute from long beach to burbank in ~2 hrs. I am also very concerned that this will encourage cyclists to blow stop signs and pass other riders rudely.

Schrauf
Guest
Schrauf

The contest requires all traffic laws to be abided by. And I bet the riders will be watched fairly close. In fact I bet they waste a bunch of resources on helicopter coverage – par for the course in LA.

Doesn’t really make sense the race is airport to airport. But I guess they had short notice to coordinate the details.

Ely
Guest
Ely

The race is door-to-destination, not airport to airport. The bikes will leave the house when the taxi picks up the passenger. The passenger is planning for the airline-recommended one-hour-before-takeoff arrival. The finish line is a landmark in Long Beach; the passenger will have to get there from the airport.

Haven’t heard anything about luggage… don’t know if they’re checking bags on such a short, cheap flight.

dan
Guest
dan

LOL, I looked at the page for the bike club, and it looks like in addition to high-end road bikes there will be lots of fixed-gear fashion bikes, merino wool jerseys, and girl jeans (on boys).

Martin
Guest

I think its a fun idea meant to point out the weaknesses in air travel. Most people flying that route aren’t really going to consider riding a bike instead but I think it’s constructive to show them that biking is a reasonable option. Perceptions change gradually.

GlowBoy
Guest
GlowBoy

I think the JetBlue promo is hilarious, but I like the Burbank-to-Long Beach race even better. Given the ridiculous time overhead of getting in and out of airports, I won’t be surprised if the cyclists win.

9watts
Guest
9watts

“UPDATE (7/15 12:37PM PST): Ride rules and details (Subject to change, more details as they become available)

Cyclists will depart from a residence near the intersection of Cahuenga and Chandler Blvd. in North Hollywood at 10:50 AM PST (Saturday, July 16) Flight Departs 12:20pm and we’re basing the cyclists’ departure time on the airline’s recommended passenger arrival time of 1.50 hours before departure. (we’re doing a little less to be fair)
Cyclists will be required to follow all traffic laws.
The finish line is the light house at the Shoreline Aquatic Park in Long Beach (adjacent to Acquarium of the Pacific)
Ezra and I will take a cab from LGB to the finish line courtesy of GaryRidesBikes
FIRST TO ARRIVE AT THE LIGHT HOUSE WINS!

More details to come. Check back here”
http://www.bikecommutenews.com/2011/07/los-angeles-cyclists-to-race-jet-blue.html

9watts
Guest
9watts

When I lived in the East Bay (Berkeley) and had to go to LA on a business trip I took Greyhound and my colleague took the plane. It was only a few months after 9/11. I won–and I still had my pocket knife–when someone needed to open a FedEx envelope at our destination. Planning, luck, and determination.

marshmallow
Guest
marshmallow

Why isn’t this race from north hollywood to lax? What does the airline passenger do to get from lax to long beach, drive? This ain’t even a contest if they take into account the 1.5 hour head start for the bike since a mediocre cyclist can easily average 20mph and it’s about 40 miles from burbank to long beach. There’s also a 20 mile mup that goes from Huntington Park directly to Long Beach. Ok, it may be close.

9watts
Guest
9watts

Anyone know how it’s going? The race, I mean. I don’t know how to follow this on Twitter where it seems to be happening.

9watts
Guest
9watts

Looks like the bikes won (surprise!)
http://tinyurl.com/6atpgqp

9watts
Guest
9watts

“Joseph Eisenberg
Wolfpack reports a total trip time of 1 hour 34 minutes. The distance by bike (mainly along the LA River) was about 40 miles, for an average speed of over 25 mph.

Garyridesbikes walked to the North Hollywood Metro station, and took the subway and the Blue Line to Long Beach, arriving about 2 hours later. Over 30 minutes of that time was walking (the start point and end points were both about 3/4 of a mile from the nearest train station). If Gary used his bike for the first and last mile, he would have been only 2 or 3 minutes behind Wolfpack.

As of 1:35 pm (2:45 after the start of the “race), the guys who took the plane have disembarked and are in a taxi, but not yet at their destination. It looks like the bikes would have won even if the race was airport to airport! ”

http://la.streetsblog.org/2011/07/16/live-follow-the-race-between-the-wolfpack-and-jet-blue-via-gps-and-jet-blue-flight-tracker/

Joseph E
Guest

The plane passengers ended up getting there at 1:41; 2 hours and 51 minutes after leaving home. This was over an hour later than the cyclists, and almost an hour later than walking+transit. At that rate, Wolfpack could have beat the plane at a leisurely pace of 14 mph. (They averaged almost 25 mph)

redhippie
Guest
redhippie

In a month we’ll have our own carmagedon when the bridge peddle happens. Well, that is at least what Lars Larson says.