“That light is red!”
“Why is everyone going so slow!?”
Something tells me with this weekend’s closure of Interstate 405, also known as Carmageddon, the above phrases (or finger) will be a common occurrence.
Starting Friday night, I-405 will close for 53 hours between I-10 and U.S. 101. A four mile stretch between U.S. 101 and Getty Center Drive will close as well. Los Angelenos, predicting a spike in traffic, have dubbed the weekend Carmageddon. While an influx of traffic is inevitable, the panic associated with such a closure illustrates a bigger problem: Los Angeles needs efficient, effective, environmentally friendly mass transportation.
I-405 is a vital roadway for Los Angelenos. It runs from The Valley to Venice Beach, intersecting the 10 and U.S. 101. The closure of such a massive route will render the city helpless. Or stuck in a massive traffic jam.
Los Angeles County is home to roughly 9.8 million documented residents (Census Bureau, 2010). Depending on location, 20 to 85 percent of those residents commute to work. Los Angeles is the only county in the nation where cars outnumber humans. So how does the city maintain its means of transportation? Your money.
The I-405 Sepulveda Pass Project alone cost taxpayers $1.34 billion. Anticipated project completion date? Spring 2013. How about the San Bernadino Freeway (I-10) Restoration Project? Another $165 million. And don’t forget about the Ventura Freeway On-Ramp ($47 million) and Harbor Freeway Auxiliary Lanes ($25 million). Why do we continue to invest in ineffective infrastructure? We need another option.
Living in China changed my outlook on mass transit. Subways sparkled, with trains coming every two minutes. Tickets cost little and access a breeze. Stations included human and digital security, keeping passengers safe. Transportation employees took their job seriously, showing the utmost respect and professionalism. Taking the Beijing subway made me feel free, happy and connected with my community.
People say effective mass transit can’t be done. Tell that to Henry Ford or the Wright brothers. It can be done.
China, the world’s second largest GDP, is already developing sustainable solutions for its urban areas. More than 170 cities will need mass transit systems by 2025 so the city is planning now, developing eco-cities (AFP, 2008). Engineers have even developed a bus to ride above the road. Click here for proof.
America, a country with the best and brightest engineers, architects and designers, can implement something similar. We must not build for 10 years into the future but 150 years into the future. Imagine a world where gardens replace gas stations. Air is clean and skies are blue. No more “five bucks a gallon.” Big oil doesn’t run the White House…
Think I’m joking? Over the past 20 years, BP and its employees donated more than $3.5 million to federal candidates, Barack Obama being the largest recipient of all time (Politico, 2010). Big oil also spent $15.9 million lobbying… In 2009 alone! And you wonder why California doesn’t have a high speed train like this? Who’s really pushing for a dependence on oil!?
Another aspect of infrastructure is labor. Where will we find this (wo)manpower?
Los Angeles County is home to an estimated one million undocumented immigrants. One in five Americans depend on government assistance. 73,000 people sleep on the streets. I’d say we’re in a depression.
As a rebound from the Great Depression, America built Grand Coulee Dam. President Roosevelt and American taxpayers invested seven years and $63 million to build the dam. Construction began in 1934 and at its height, employed over ten thousand people. And for how much? Men earned $4 a day.
We’ve developed a sense of entitlement. Earn your amnesty. Work for “unemployment.” Money still is money. When too many people take from the system without giving back, the system collapses.
If the government keeps spending, they should extend 405 into the Pacific. We’re headed off a financial cliff. It’s time to think outside the box. Can we solve two problems with one solution? Will our infrastructure invest in our future? Can we replace the homogeny that is gas stations? Are there other options?
As a young, taxpaying American citizen, I encourage my readers to take action. If you want to see action, be action. Write your representatives. Exercise free speech. We are the voice of the future. If you don’t like something, work to change it. If you don’t, who will?