In celebrating the success of this weekend’s non-event known as Carmageddon, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, said he wanted to give everyone in the city “A big hug.” I will politely decline the political embrace, because instead of a big hug, all of us who drive the streets and freeway here want the big help.
This weekend, most especially Friday afternoon and evening proved something that I hope transportation planners, city leaders, and local citizens will keep in mind. It is as simple as it is true. Less cars on the road equal less traffic. Less traffic means better quality of life. So what is the real way to put less cars on the road, wider freeways and more HOV lanes? Of course not. We keep trying that solution and it fails again and again.
The best solution was the one we all learned on Friday with the only real expense being an over abundance of media attention. People stayed home. People worked from home. Employers staggered work schedules, enabling employees to take the day off, work from home, or leave early. And you know what.
It worked. It worked better than a multi-billion dollar subway, worked better than wider and wider freeways. People all over the Southland were given a crystal clear message and they responded. So, how do we repeat the sheer joy of Carmageddon. We do the same thing, all over again.
The future of modern transportation is right there on your shampoo bottle. Wash, rinse, repeat. With the key word being REPEAT.
We should select one weekend a month, maybe the third weekend of every month, or whatever, it doesn’t matter. Isolate a particular weekend, and isolate a particular Friday and give people the exact same message. Stay home. Work from home. Don’t take long trips unless absolutely necessary. Ask people to remember the pure pleasure of this past weekend. The chance to reconnect with family and friends at home, the chance to save some serious time and money and aggravation.
I was almost a little upset to hear that the freeway was opening early. I was hoping that the spell of this weekend wouldn’t break so soon.
Maybe, with bold and courageous leadership from the same folks who got us into the marvelous mess this weekend, can get us into another mess sometime real soon.
These last three days; quieter, less frenetic, better; is like the Los Angeles I grew up in. So many of my friends this weekend said the exact same thing. We want this version of Carmageddon to return as soon as possible.