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Carmageddon Fallout: Driving Less, Eating Dinner on Closed 405 Freeway in LA

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By HVculture on July 19, 2011

The 405 Freeway closing wasn’t quite the Carmageddon that people were expecting it to be.

In fact, many in Los Angeles are now singing a different tune: If the closing was so successful for this one weekend, why can’t Los Angelenos drive their cars less?

It’s not likely to happen, but in a city constantly gridlocked by traffic, a city which has an infrastructure dependent upon the automobile and freeways, this past weekend’s closing seemed to kindle optimism for a better Los Angeles, less dependent on the car.

The LA Times notes:

“You can suddenly hear people talking. You hear kids playing,” said county Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky. “People discovered something about themselves and Los Angeles auto culture that shocked them. Why can’t we take some chunk of L.A. and shut it down to traffic on certain days or weekends, as they do in Italy?”

Some mass-transportation advocates went further, saying Carmageddon showed the need for less freeway expansion –- like the $1 billion project that closed the 405 –- and more investment in rail and bus service.

But turning Carmageddon into a movement is likely to prove difficult. Some of those who stayed out of their cars this weekend said they doubt it will become a habit. Not in a city that was planned around the car with limited mass transit and a DNA of venturing out rather than staying in.

“I find it hard to imagine that ordinary middle-class Angelenos will be satisfied with living and working and shopping and spending their time in the space of the area encompassed by their ability to walk or even ride a bike,” said L.A. historian D.J. Waldie.

Perhaps the success will lead to better public transit projects like light rail, or a more encompassing subway system, or really anything to help ease the constant congestion. Or maybe it will just lead to more billion-dollar highway projects and additional HOV lanes. Don’t underestimate people learning the wrong lessons from big events.

But maybe the biggest success of Carmageddon had nothing to do with cars at all.

Despite the California Highway Patrol arresting people all over the place for sneaking onto the closed 405 Freeway, three friends managed to eat some dinner on the closed highway.

Awesome pic, right?

That’s certainly worth getting arrested for, and you know in 10-20 years those people’s kids are going to find that photo and marvel there was a time there parents were, gulp, awesome.

Curbed has the back story: “We went at around 6 a.m. on Sunday morning, hopped a fence and hiked up a hill. The construction crew was much closer than we’d anticipated, and you can actually see the light from a cop car in the picture (he was stationed closer to the 405/101 intersection). A helicopter was circling above, so I was pretty convinced he was going to radio the police! Once at the highway, we waited alongside the wall for a car to pass, then hopped out and set up as quickly as possible. Matt [on the left] actually had dress pants under the track pants and we had food for the plates, but due to the time crunch, those went by the wayside! We managed to get the pics and then a construction car drove past, and laughingly told us to pack up before CHP caught on.”

That’s how it’s done. Even if they didn’t get to eat dinner.

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