Making the Big Time

Well, perhaps not so big. However, I was quoted in today’s LA Observed blog about my taking umbrage at the NY Times article about the 405-HOV Lane Construction. I also received some nice words from Kevin, who runs the site. For those unaware of this blog, LA Observed is a great blog that covers all sorts of news about LA (and its subblog, LA Biz Observed, covers the business side), with some interesting observations on the journalistic world. Kevin is the author of two books on LA History: one on the San Fernando Valley and one on Wilshire Blvd. He also runs the Valley Observed blog, although that’s been pretty much dormant these days.

As for the NY Times article: I’ll note that I heard back from the author of the article, Adam Nagourney. He wrote that he didn’t believe he was making fun of LA freeways. He felt that the HOV lane project was obviously going to be a problem for many commuters and other drivers, as it was at a key intersection in an interesting part of the city, and it struck him as an story worth sharing with our readers. He agreed with me that highways are better in LA, if only because there are so many of them and they have so many lanes. As for Public Transit, he loves the reach and convenience of New York subways, and believes that the Washington DC metro system pales in comparison. He hoped that I took that article in the spirit it was intended.

That last sentence indicates what my problem was with the article: it shouldn’t have a spirit. Non-opinion pieces in a paper should be neutral: they should focus on presenting the facts, and let the reader draw the conclusion. So instead of joking about “the” in front of freeway names, or lost commuters, he should be presenting a balanced piece. He should have talked about the extensive work Caltrans put into the planning; the challenges of widening a bridge while keeping it open; the challenges of widening a highway in a constrained mountain pass. He should also have talked about the balancing act being done with the neighbors, which requires limiting sound and dust, as well as the restrictions on doing construction during the daytime so as not to further impact traffic. Yes, there are measures that are impacting the traffic in the area, but they would be so much worse if Caltrans hadn’t done the planning. However, as currently written, the article makes the freeway commuters look self-centered, and implicitly carries the notions of “Oh, those silly Angelinos and their freeways”.