Monday, July 18, 2011

Carmageddon

Did you guys know about this?

Closed Section of the Freeway
A 10 mile section of the 405 freeway between Santa Monica and Sherman Oaks was shut down all weekend so a bridge could be demolished.  The build-up to this project had been going on for months. Apparently there have been temporary road signs as far north as Oregon warning people of the impending doom that was expected over the weekend.

The hysteria really kicked in to high gear last week to the point where even I was buying into it.  I had a meeting up in Woodland Hills Friday afternoon, and to get there I had to take the 405.  I started worrying.  What if they close the road early?  What if everyone in the LA basin attempts an escape to points north?  I allowed myself 2 hours to go 10 miles.  It only took 15 minutes.

On the way home I avoided the 405 completely.  I took the 101 to the 5.  It was smooth sailing.  I did hit some traffic on the 5 but it was nothing more than normal Friday afternoon traffic in Los Angeles.

When I got home I immediately forgot about all of it.  I had no business up north over the weekend.  And besides, between weekend family stuff, my training and the Tour de France, I have not been thinking about much else over the last couple weekends.  Out of site, out of mind.  I enjoyed a weekend of perfect weather and drove my car a grand total of 10 miles.

It was back to the grind this morning.  And catching myself up with the rest of the world, I stumbled upon this.

In case you don't have time to read the link:  To "battle" the congestion, Jet Blue offered $4 flights from Burbank to Long Beach over the weekend.  It's about 40 miles from Burbank to Long Beach, and as a practical matter you would never take the 405 to drive between the two.

So some cyclists issued a challenge.  From the same street corner in Hollywood, the cyclists rode straight to the Long Beach Aquarium (essentially a straight shot down the LA River trail) while someone else drove to Burbank Airport, parked, went through security, waited to board, taxied, took off, flew, landed in Long Beach, taxied, deplaned and took ground transportation to the Aquarium.

The cyclists got to the Aquarium in an hour and forty three minutes.  The plane had not even pushed back yet.

My take?  I know I should defend my brothers of the bike but I just can't.  Cool stunt, fellas and way to out-bulls**t the bulls**ters.  But please hold the high fives right there and inject some clarity.  You can't push the "alternative urban transportation" card here.  First, because you stacked the deck.  And second, an Airbus A320 isn't generally seen as urban transportation.  I don't see the parallel.  Race an Amtrak train station to station and then come talk to me.

An Empty 405
Unfortunately, the bulls**t didn't end there.  In fact, it got worse.

The contractors had 53 hours to get the job done.  If they delivered late, they would be penalized something like $17,000 per hour against the contract value.  This seems like a fair and prudent protection enacted by the government for the benefit of the people, right?  Do what you say you are going to do or be penalized.

BUT, it turns out this deal went both ways.  As in if the contractor delivered early they got a bonus of something like $17,000 per hour.  Well, the contractor ended up 17 hours ahead of schedule and is now just under $300,000 richer.  Los Angeles Mayor Anthony Villaraigosa has gone on record saying that the taxpayers actually saved $400,000 because of this bonus.  How does that math work?  Never mind, I'll never understand it.  Because even though I am pretty good at adding up a column of figures, when the numbers are sugar coated with political spin I'm hopelessly lost.

I'm not sure I like this quid pro quo thing.  We'd already been conditioned to expect a 53 hour closure, so we all found ways to avoid the 405 over the weekend.  Yet by getting the road back early we ended up paying more for something that we were told we wouldn't have.  It's too bad the satisfaction of kicking ass (and getting Sunday afternoon off) wasn't good enough for the contractor.  Who will give me a hundred dollars for every minute I take off my goal time at the Solana Beach Triathlon this Sunday?  None of you.  Because you live in reality.

I suppose if they use the extra money to pay out the workers who had been expecting a Sunday shift, that would be one thing.  But why do I get the feeling it's not going to work out that way?

Oh yeah, I spent an hour and twenty minutes moving two miles today on La Cienega today trying to get on the 10 Freeway because of some other construction.   Just when I thought it was over....


22 comments:

XLMIC said...

I'll give you a dollar for every minute you take off your goal time. Not much... but it's the thought that counts ;-)

I was wondering how this whole Carmageddon thing was shaking out. Thanks for this info. I may even be able to use it in my Q & A... now I think I know what was up with that chicken.

Shannon (IronTexasMommy) said...

Yep.. It was newsworthy for about the 8th story in on our nightly news in TX. Mostly the Jet Blue part, which of course was a PR generator.

I am thankful for my non-traffic commute. A train, tractor or an errant livestock constitutes the majority of my delays.

And, I actually read "your training for the Tour de France" at first and thought that was freakin' awesome! It's my story...

Mike said...

The whole driving in CA rush hour sounds like a PITA. I get stuck in traffic all the time in St. Louis and have no where near the weather or scenery you have in CA. Of course my back ups are usually less than an hour too.

Kovas said...

It was really cool to see the empty freeway pics - the last time I was in SoCal it was bumper to bumper the whole way to my parent's house, at 2 AM no less.

Jennifer said...

Great post Patrick. You really are a very talented writer. Cheers!

Johann said...

Reading all of that I nearly though you were also from South Africa. Construction and closed roads and demolitions happen frequently here as well.

Lisa @ Eat.Pray.Run. said...

I loved reading this!! We have family in Santa Clarita and a bunch of friends down in San Diego, so we come out to the LA as much as we can. The drive from LAX to SC always scares me--will it take 45 minutes or 4 hours? Should I bring enough food to feed two children two meals? Should I bring some sort of pee receptacle? I usually err on the side of caution on these questions...

That picture of the empty 405 is really cool. Too bad the road wasn't open to bikers and runners!!

ONEHOURIRONMAN said...

Not sure how the City saved $400K... I guess that's why they get paid the big bucks...

Jason said...

I read about carmaggedeon over the weekend and thought it was a pretty good idea but the problem I saw with this was that this wasn't going to get people healthier which should be the goal.

These were 'cyclists' who could pace 26 mph with ease and not everybody can do that so most people would say forget it I am getting on the plane and that is where I had my issue with this.

Happy to hear Cali is back to being it normal self with the new math and the 1 hour trip to go 10 miles.

Matty O said...

Good post. Dealing with construction and contracts a lot... I see these penalties and bonuses A LOT! Typically they finish late and get SPANKED big time. At that point they go and blame everyone else and sue the engineers and suppliers to make up their losses... funny, when they finish early, we don't get a cut of that money, it only goes one way.

I agree with your take too, they did stack the deck in their favor (cyclists).

Good stuff, didn't realize how closely affected you were to this.

Tri4Success said...

My guess is the politician thinks the area saved money due to the additional commerce that typically comes through that vein. However, if nobody knew it was finished early and had planned alternatives then commerce wouldn't be at "typical" levels. It's all a bunch of BS.

Patrick Mahoney said...

Tri4Success I read this morning it was an estimated "net" savings. Apparently another $700k would have been spent over the next 17 hours above and beyond the contractor. Police/Fire overtime? I dunno. It still seems a bit off to me.

BabyWeightMyFatAss said...

Good post! I only knew about the carmeggedeon thing from the blog of sphere of runners/cyclists. I've been to California and probably on that road but any road we took in California felt like eternity to go from A to B. They never close off major roads for anything here though but every road seems to be under construction though!
The contract thing happens out here to as well. Very common especially because of wonderful weather *cough*cough* it's almost 100 today but it could be 50 next week. lol

TRI714 said...

Wait, what happened ?

lindsay said...

Hah! Nice "study" by the cyclists. A $4 flight sounds nice, but with all the security and waiting you have to go thru one may as well have sat in traffic...

Emz said...

I love empty freeway pictures.
The UFO in the sky is a nice touch too.

Ah Ah Alaska said...

Nice post. Last time I drove a CA freeway on vacation I cried. So many cars! And they were all so shiny and clean! It was pretty scary ....

Chris K said...

I'm sure the contractor didn't pad that number at all.

Let me know what's up for this weekend. I forgot if it's Sat or Sun. Either way, I plan to come see you race.

Chris K said...

Duh, I guess when you wrote "this Sunday" in your post you were implying that the race was on Sunday. That's even better for me.

Tricia said...

Gotta love LA. The pic of an empty 405 was lovely -- don't think I've ever experienced that.

The Green Girl said...

Oh, Carmageddon. All that type for nothing.

Glenn Jones said...

The important thing about the incentive in that contract is to remember it when *you* are the contractor.

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