Carmageddon — Bring it on

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taking the glisan exitDream freeway.

In Los Angeles, where apparently they haven’t yet been briefed about the reality of induced demand, they’re spending a billion dollars on widening an eleven mile stretch of freeway across town, the overwhelmingly congested I-405. This weekend they’ll be shutting it down to traffic entirely, and savvy city officials have dubbed the event Carmageddon and are busily broadcasting not-entirely tongue in cheek warnings to residents to stay at home and visitors to stay away.

It might just work. It did in Seattle a few years ago when I-5 was reduced to a single lane during at least one weekday commute. The dire warnings, broadcast for weeks in advance, were perfectly effective.

My question is — what if every day was treated as a freeway emergency, if people were asked to find other ways to travel or to travel closer to home, if employers were asked to allow employees to work from home or encourage off-peak commutes or even bicycling? How many car trips wouldn’t be taken if we had daily reminders of how much the drive was going to suck?

Portlanders listening to radio traffic reports five years or so ago used to get a hilarious taste of what this might look like when they heard: “…crews responding to a major crash blocking I-5 at the Terwilliger Curves…expect a full hour delay…this report brought to you by River City Bicycles.”

Let’s see what happens in LA. We may learn that in order to reduce traffic what we need is a cultural shift. Not more lanes.