Carmageddon Begins: Why Is One Freeway Closure So Apocalyptic?

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With all the commotion, you'd think the 405 was the only road in town.

With all the commotion, you’d think it was the only road in town.

“Roads? Where we’re going we don’t need roads.” Car-loving Angelenos will try to take Doc Brown’s wisdom to heart – and practice – this weekend. L.A. residents are staring into the face of sure gridlock as the city shutters a 10-mile stretch of the 405 freeway starting Friday at midnight. Here’s the clincher: the closure is scheduled to last a mere 53 hours. What’s the problem, you might ask? Well, the span of the 405 is one of the city’s most crucial freeways, connecting the San Fernando Valley with Los Angeles’ Westside.

The stretch of precious freeway is shut down from midnight Friday until 5 a.m. Monday – or so the plan goes. The two-day closure of the essential link through the L.A. is expected to cause gear-grinding grief throughout the city, even on a weekend in July. The giant warning signs telling drivers in no hazy terms to “EXPECT BIG DELAYS” this weekend span from Bakersfield to San Diego. How did one stretch of road get to be so important?

(PHOTOS: Los Angeles Braces for Carmageddon)

The part of the 405 that’s now impassable stretches precariously across the Sepulveda Pass, a particularly mountainous and geographically challenging area, the the only main road to cut north and south through the Santa Monica Mountains. And it’s a crucial piece of roadway: the freeway handles as many as 374,000 cars on the average day. While it’s tricky to carve roads through the area’s hills and valleys, a quick glance at a map proves that side roads indeed exist. In fact, Sepulveda Boulevard snakes along mountains below the freeway, mirroring the 405’s route. But the four-lane road is no match for the capacity of the ten-lane freeway. Numerous other canyon roads cut through the mountains, too – but they’re slow, winding, and congested even on a normal day when the 405 is open, UCLA Urban Planning Professor Brian D. Taylor tells TIME.

Putting a stretch of roadway through the area is costly and limited by geography. “In San Francisco, replace the mountains with the bay, or in New York, the Hudson River,” Taylor says. The span of the 405 carries at least 280,000 cars on an average weekend day. And it’s just not possible to redirect all those cars onto other roads without causing almost certain gridlock. While Taylor is optimistic that the weekend won’t see traffic jams in every corner of the city (as has been predicted), he notes the benefit of Caltrans being “chicken little” about the closure. “Not a lot of people have to make behavioral changes in order to have a drastic effect,” he says. By encouraging even a few Angelenos to stay home or try the free public transportation concessions on offer this weekend, the potential for calamity is reduced exponentially.

(MORE: Why Angelenos Love Their Cars)

It’s no secret that the Sepulveda section of the 405 is one of the most congested roadways in the nation. And the irony of this weekend’s situation is that by closing the span for what’s really a short stretch of time will hopefully help prolong the life and flow of the 405. “The goal here is to move many more people through the pass with the same or lower level of delays and emissions, and that will counter any short-term disruption,” Taylor says. The California Department of Transportation, known as Caltrans, has a full schedule for their 53-hour-straight agenda: they will be widening lanes, adding a high-occupancy vehicle lane for carpoolers, upgrading sound walls, conforming the freeway to the latest seismic standards, and demolishing the Mulholland Bridge that crosses above the freeway (a project that would be impossible with cars driving below it).

And by the Monday morning rush, the project will be complete – or else the construction company will owe the city $6,000 for every 10 minutes they’re late to open the freeway. But without a doubt many Angelenos wish they had a time-traveling Delorean this weekend to fast-forward past the Carmageddon.

Nick Carbone is a reporter at TIME. Find him on Twitter at @nickcarbone. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.

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14 comments
alifaizan1233
alifaizan1233

Internet Experts say that Internet Privacy does not exist which is true unfortunately. However this does not mean that people should avoid this threat. In times like these encryption is your best friend, though it would be misleading to say that NSA cannot decrypt your connection but they wouldn't spend thousands of dollars based on a vague suspicion. You can use TOR or VPNs for this purpose, lately VPNs and Tor have been highlighting these issues improving their encryption. If you haven't checked these options out yet then you should.

kyle.banerjee
kyle.banerjee

Hey Janet -- you weren't treated like a criminal. At worst, you were treated like the kook you were acting like. 


If you really care about privacy, why do you post details of yourself and your relationships under your real name? Why do you tweet prolifically and belong to FB? You do realize that despite their popularity, most people use neither of those services -- largely because they don't find them relevant? There's way more about you on the internet than there is for the average person, and that's because you went out of your way to put it there.


I won't go into details for the sake of brevity, but from the point of maintaining anonymity, your methods sound ineffective. Being rude to people who were trying to be nice to you via social networks doing what they were designed to is hypocritical given that your connections with them compromise all kinds of information about them at the same time already. It's not like they were revealing anything to nonthinking algorithms that wouldn't be obvious to any yutz on the street. 


I did an experiment sometime back to try to anonymize myself. I found it worked too well. The ads I got bombarded with were useless. Did you get bombarded with ads that would be predominantly of interest to young white technically inclined males? That couldn't have anything to do with who dominates cookieless TOR connections....


After getting tired of being anonymous, I tried manipulating my identity which turned out to be fairly easy. I found I could manufacture virtually any identity I wanted and that the ads followed that. In the end, I wound up making sure the info that the ad people have is accurate so now I get informed about specialized things that I actually want to hear about but no one else does. If you're worried about identity theft (which I am), just mess up critical details enough to make that harder, but leave yourself in a place that will get you the same statistical treatment.


I haven't read any of your articles aside from this one, but your tone in this one makes it look like you think of Big Data the same way as the people who wear tin foil hats. 


LNbm
LNbm

I really enjoyed the article but as another poster said, I'd like to know how well it worked and whether or not the author got any targeted ads even with the small facebook breach. 


The posters that are accusing the author of being paranoid need to get a clue. I mean how ignorant and pathetic can you be to say that a journalist performing an experiment for an article (an experiment that gives information to everyone and seems like quite an inconvenience no less) is paranoid. Especially when they find out that the government wants to know if you buy too many gift cards. The government has no business knowing that and the argument that nobody cares is completely ignorant and backwards. I understand the trade off and in most cases I'm ok with it, but to vilify someone that isn't ok with it is completely un-American (being able to voice their ignorant opinions, however, is they're right) and maybe those people should should get the hell out of America and move to someplace with a government that intrudes on every aspect of private life and you don't even have the "option" of "opting out".

focusgh
focusgh

I'd like to know the end of the article -- i.e. did this actually work?  The author delineated all of the steps that she took to maintain privacy, but didn't describe the result. Did her evasion methods work in avoiding customized baby ads in her browser? Did her uncle's mistake change that?


The teaser to the piece reads, "Here's what happened when I tried to hide my pregnancy from the Internet and marketing companies."  So, what actually happened??


And... why can't I post this comment to Time without signing in through Facebook, Twitter, or Google? (or a Time account that's likely tied to a gmail, yahoo, or other big data account...)

1.41421
1.41421

Reading some of the comments to this article I can't hep but wondering if we have read the same article? In the first place, there is nothing in the article to make one think that it was big data, or devious algorithms, or a putative pervasive surveillance that revealed the secret. She told her relatives! What was she expecting, especially if she is silly enough to exchange personal information on Facebook? Has she still got to learn that a group of people can keep a secret only when all of them, but one, are dead? 


In this light, I find her goody-goody moralistic comments quite  annoying, for she's the only one to blame - NOT 'big data'.  In a nutshell, she's unfairly blaming 'big data' for her own stupidity, and she then indulges on a morality rant about nothing, perhaps to hoodwink the reader into thinking that she did not act naively, to put it mildly.  She'd do well to stop being so naive and apparently uninformed.

breen.whitman
breen.whitman

Ahh, author takes moral high ground and takes on issue du jour, vilifies all that misstep.

I feel for the two relatives mentioned in this story. They must have been hurt quite badly by these actions.

The importance of data and tracking that this author experiences has its roots in the late 1920's when the German Nazi party began collecting census data, and subsequently, IBM who provided the technology in cross query the census data. The issue was Jewish ancestry of course.

And, as now, younger Jews back then knew of the data collection and would lie on census forms. Elsewhere though, it just needed a grandparent to identify themselves as Jewish and the other person as grandchild.

The bad news for author is that this issue is best forgotten. Once the child is born, her life is "over" in terms of privacy, for that child must  be registered for health, insurance, education etc. Life will become too busy to juggle privacy.

If author wants to take on an issue, I suggest forgoing disposable nappies, and using washable cotton ones. Oh, and also stop posting selfies. #soapBox.



jamesprestonza
jamesprestonza

This is one of the most important debates of our time. This article is a frightening exposure of where an IT based society is headed unless quickly curtailed. Fortunately, for people like myself in South Africa, buying things from the local store is pretty much our primary source of shopping. Loyalty programs are popping up everywhere which is clearly a push for more of our spending habits, but it's far easier to not swipe a loyalty card than it is to avoid revealing our information online. Great great article Janet! Well done on nine months of privacy!

DannyJam
DannyJam

This is a great article, but the idea that to be truly invisible to marketers is costly to your family and/or social life is wrong. You can avoid 99% of the headache if you take simple precautions to mask your data. A guide to do this is in the new book "Smart Girl's Guide to Privacy" and I can't recommend it enough. Timely subject, but it's not a black and white issue.

Merzmensch
Merzmensch

Thank you for this courageous experiment. This proves not only the Orwellian development. But it also shows actually, that this indexication of our private data by big companies as a concrete case (and the huge surveillance by intelligence services as a global state of being) makes our society anxious and paranoid. Knowing that every my email could - and will - be input into a huge database and used against me (or spoken with hypocritical perspective of marketing companies "used for my benefits") - this is the end of freedom. Freedom not only outside, but also in my head.

Another illustrative example for this horrible development of our society is this statistic, that 1 of 6 American PEN club writers do use self-censoring to avoid beeing classified by NSA.

The authorities and marketing companies don't need to use measures, they just need to show us their omnipresence - and this destroys our society.

MACRM32
MACRM32

What's worse is those people who claim that, since they have nothing to hide, they don't mind being tracked. It boggles my mind how brain-washed they can get. Your article is proof enough that privacy should be private, regardless of what we do with it.

jxmckie
jxmckie

Thank you for inconveniencing yourself so much in order to expose the sham "opting out" offered us. It should not be that hard to keep personal data private. You have done us all a great service. I hope that news of your experiment reaches those in a position to effect some real changes to the system.

gregmachlin
gregmachlin

@breen.whitman  I don't think the author--or most people--have a problem with insurance companies getting notified so the kid can get health insurance, or with schools (public or private) having that information. This is specifically about private companies like facebook and amazon that, theoretically, one shouldn't need to give any data at all to--and to their attempts to partner with so many other sites *without properly notifying their users* what data they're collecting, when, and for how long it will be kept. 

giffboake
giffboake

@MACRM32  Its not that people dont care and are brainwashed its that most peole are smart enough to realise that NO BODY cares about you and your boaring life! I find it funny that everyone who complains about this stuff is a self obsessed loser!

kyle.banerjee
kyle.banerjee

@gregmachlin Curiously, actual human beings look at health and educational data and make judgments based on detailed knowledge of what's going on in your body and your head.


So just to be clear, that's not a privacy problem but algorithmically connecting people with products they may statistically be interested in is?