Photo: janoskpalko under a Creative Commons license.
Los Angeles has finally found a way to cut down traffic: terror. The announcement that ten miles of Interstate 405 would be shut down for 53 hours was accompanied by a public three month long awareness campaign to warn drivers to stay away from the major traffic artery. And so far (about halfway through the shut down), it looks like the threats of traffic even worse than usual have worked. Southern Californians are staying off the roads, and have avoided the fire and brimstone of Carmageddon. LA without cars: it's Carmaheaven.The awareness campaign included warnings that "traffic conditions... are expected to be severe, with significant, multi-hour delays." But things will only stay heavenly as long as the people are gripped by that fear, says California Department of Transportation spokeswoman Judy Gish, reported CNN:
"Carmaheaven, I've heard that," Gish said. "Well, you know, I think what's important to address is if people start driving as usual, we will have Carmaggedon. It's been relatively light because people have been listening to the message, and they are not out on the road. We want to make sure they don't get complacent and say, 'There's nothing to get alarmed about and I may as well go out.' And if they do, we may see those delays that we warned them about."
Sadly, things aren't going to stay this way. The I405 will reopen Monday morning, and people will indeed "start driving as usual." The shutdown (the first of at least two) is part of a $1.2 billion project to widen the highway and replace a bridge, with the goal of alleviating traffic. But it won't work: a University of Toronto study found that building more roads leads to more traffic, as demand rises to meet the supply of increased capacity.
Los Angeles would do better to consider options to reduce the number of cars on the road, rather than make more room for them. Congestion pricing has been suggested, and has worked in other cities. Public transport has a long way to go.
LA did recently announce a plan to build 1,680 miles of interconnected bike lanes, a major step in the right direction. Because people won't stay afraid forever.
For more stories like this, follow me on Twitter.
More on the fight against LA traffic:
Conan O'Brien Commutes via Carpool and Fights LA Traffic With Road Rage (Video)
High Speed Rail from San Francisco to LA Will Make an Even Greener California
Transition City LA: Why Los Angeles Must Kick the Oil Habit