Don't pat yourself on the back, Tim Cavanaugh...
Over at Reason.com, Tim Cavanaugh posts some cool photos of the lack of cars and other motor vehicles on the Los Angeles Freeways this weekend (Link fixed) after Carmageddon.
Too bad Cavanaugh wrongly makes it sound like (1) the government people were just being stupid government bureaucrats in not knowing that people would heed a clear warning, and (2) media people were overhyping for no apparent reason other than being stupid.
Sorry, Tim. Lots of folks knew this weekend would likely be like the 1984 Olympics, where people in Los Angeles simply went away for the week to ten days, or did their best to just stay home and not get on the freeways.
Let's start with this July 13, 2011 article in the Los Angeles Times where even liberal "statist" councilman Bill Rosendahl says he is hoping that the weekend will be like...the 1984 Olympics lack of traffic (Like Cavanaugh slightly hedging his bet at the end of an earlier article). And noted cultural liberal, economic semi-liberal councilman Zev Yaroslavsky wisely says the reason the word "Carmageddon" was used was to get people's attention in a marketing sorta way.
Here is an article from Friday's July 15, 2011 CBS website where the article expressly notes the publicity side of the "hype" to help people again get the word out to avoid the freeways, including using Hollywood stars to make clever one liners on Twitter to get the word out.
Of course, a few months ago, the officials knew they had to get the word out, and that unlike the 1984 Olympics, there was no momentous event other than "We're gonna close a particularly congested stretch of the 405 freeway to do some construction work over a weekend in the middle of the summer." So, they did what responsible adults do--they issued warnings, and they said, if we don't change our habits for the weekend when the repair is done, there'll be a traffic jam that is the mother of all traffic jams. And the officials made sure they had fire, police and hospital personnel prepared for a bad-case scenario.
DJ Waldie put it nicely in this article published on the KCET (Public Television) website that it was "reassuring" the officials prepared for the worst, particularly with fire and police services. I also found another article reassuring, about how doctors at westside hospitals were going to "bunk in" at west-side hospitals to avoid being delayed by potential traffic. Good for them! And let's note the last paragraph of the article about the doctors at the hospitals:
Dire warnings have been shown to work during the 1984 Summer Olympics and a 1987 visit by Pope John Paul II. The city braced for the worst, but traffic flowed freely because people avoided driving.
So people heeded the message--again.
But Cavanaugh's post has that tone of "I'm so cool and counterintuitive, unlike those dense public officials and media types. It's what makes me...a libertarian!"
Now maybe Tim and his friends could find some officials who sounded like they knew there was only catastrophe coming, but I think a lot of folks recognized the 1984 Olympics scenario was more likely, especially as we got closer to the event. Still, it looks like there was at least one out of towner--Hitler--who did not know that traffic might be much lighter this now passing weekend. But, seriously, it was harder than I thought to find other credulous writers worried about Carmageddon, like this article at the Santa Monica Free Press, or the somewhat credulous writer at Forbes.com (See here).
In short, our officials gave out ample warnings, and then prepared for the worst. Again, though, people heeded the warnings--and again, good for the officials to have prepared to protect public safety in case people did not heed the warnings.
All of this only looks like a waste of weekend government and public safety resources to those who think like adolescents ("It'll never happen!" "I can drive with a few drinks in me--I'll be careful!").*
* As for whether a new single car lane at that stretch of the 405 freeway is really necessary, I actually agree with Cavanaugh it is not our best use of transportation funds. Where Cavanaugh and I part is I would like far more publicly funded mass transit. Oh well. So it goes...