Growing up in Southern California during the 1950s (Los Angeles: population about 2 million; state population, 11 million), part of our family routine included the Sunday night drive. Sometimes we would set off to the north toward the San Fernando Valley, at the time mostly orange groves but now strip malls and tract housing. Other evenings, we’d head west toward the Pacific Ocean to watch the sunset.
The quaint tradition of the family drive is long gone. One reason is that no one, especially people who live in greater Los Angeles, wants to get into his car unless it’s absolutely necessary. Bumper to bumper driving is hardly relaxing.
Later in my life when I visited Los Angeles (by then Los Angeles population 4 million; state, nearly 38 million), I had one rule of thumb when I drove. If I was able to maintain 30 MPH on any major freeway, I promised myself I wouldn’t complain. I developed an effective game plan to avoid at least some of the traffic. Before dawn, I was up and out to do whatever few errands could be accomplished at that early hour like grocery shopping or gassing up.
Everybody has his own Los Angeles driving horror stories. Here’s mine. One day I had to go from Santa Monica to the UCLA campus, a distance of about seven miles that should take 20 minutes. When I finally arrived in 90 minutes, I couldn’t find parking.
Today Los Angeles is on the eve of the greatest driving crisis in the city’s history: “Carmageddon” During the weekend of July 16-17, I-405—the vehicular lifeline to Los Angeles’ west side—will be shut down in both directions for ten miles. Drivers are strongly advised to avoid alternate routes like Sepulveda Boulevard because, according to CalTrans, surface roads will be overloaded and not, to use its word, “moveable”.
The uninitiated may not realize the extent to which vast numbers of Los Angeles residents and visitors will be inconvenienced. To give you some idea, start with the understanding that I-405 is a mess even when it’s open. If you have the misfortune to have a flight into or out of LAX, good luck.
In short, predictions are that Carmageddon will be a horror show. The best advice is to stay home. Get around, if you must, on an ecologically friendly bicycle.
Of course, looking back I realize that conditions change as decades pass. But has there ever been a serious discussion in Sacramento about the implications of relentless population growth? Natural increases, unchecked illegal immigration and unreasonable, unsustainable levels of legal immigration have brought Los Angles, and much of the rest of California, to terminal gridlock.
I was born in Los Angeles when it was a small and wonderful town. I moved away long ago and cannot imagine the circumstances under which I would return—even for a visit.