Carmageddon was pretty much all you heard on the news in the LA area last week. Sure, there might be some fiscal debate going on in DC, or maybe some woman was found innocent of murdering her child, but these are inconsequential to the media coverage of the 405 closure in the Los Angeles media market.
The fear and strong words used by government to convince the people to avoid the area and help prevent a massive traffic jam appeared to have worked. It was a non-event. The 50+ mile traffic jams did not form. The LA Galaxy soccer match did not create the mega-mess that every camera was searching for. Instead, a quiet weekend ensued, people kept to their local areas or had sleep overs or simply left town to avoid the mayhem.
Some are expressing frustration that the government was too forceful with their scare tactics or overplayed the event for the sake of media coverage and political ends. Indeed, I heard one DJ calling for people to get in their cars and drive to the area to create some activity and rebel against government requests.
These people are wrong and lack vision.
Something important has quietly taken place the weekend the 405 shutdown, and if enough voices of reason and power recognize it, Carmageddon could be a turning point for mass society. Those in power take heed.
Carmageddon was prevented because local leaders asked citizens to take action. They clearly outlined the issues and risks and explained the benefits. Teams of communications experts effectively got the word to the people, and the people responded.
Better, yet, something got done. A major project took a step forward. A large public works project managed to survive the onslaught of interest groups and naysayers to move forward. How appropriate that the bridge was named Mulholland.
And even better still, those who stayed home or avoided the 405 by routing through San Dimas or East LA contributed in a small way to make this project happen. When that Mulholland bridge is rebuilt and they drive by it on the reopened 405 or experience the new HOV lane, they can think to themselves, “I remember that day when I arrived three hours early at LAX just in case Carmegeddon happened.” They will have a personal investment in a big public works project.
Only in Southern California could it take an issue related to traffic to so unite a community. Yet, having seen the benefits of individual citizen choices uniting for a bigger goal, everyone should start imagining bigger. What if construction projects were more efficient when accomplished over a major weekend like this, rather than piecemeal nighttime work that spreads the pain and increases costs? Could we declare monthly third weekends as “infrastructure events” that enable our builders to accomplish great works in short periods of time?
Efficiency and productivity are the killer tools we need to revive the US economy. Big infrastructure projects can deliver both, and to accomplish those projects with even more efficiency by asking citizens to alter their schedules occasionally would only yield better results.
Carmageddon did not happen, but there is still a lot to learn from this weekend.