Just when you thought that, with schools out for Summer, you could navigate the West Los Angeles Gridlock without losing your sanity, think again, Pilgrim!  Monday, June 25, begins the 90-day closure of both the 405’s Wilshire Blvd. East and West on-ramps, sure to bring to W LA Gridlock a whole new level of utter, paralyzing madness!  Count on it . . . .

Over the next year, at various times, all eight of the 405’s West LA on- and off-ramps will close for periods of time as three bridges over the 405 are rebuilt, and the 405 is widened.  If you see surging crowds of crazed, zombie commuters, armed with pitchforks and torches, you will know why.

For those who keep their distance from West Los Angeles traffic, this should give you a chuckle over your morning coffee.  For those who deal with West LA Gridlock daily, at the cost of what is left of your sanity, this is for you.

It has gotten so bad that driving from West LA to Century City at the wrong times (more on this, later) can take an hour.  You could walk the 4 or 5 miles faster.

The quaint notion of ‘rush hour’ is long gone – gridlock reigns and the time of day matters not very much anymore.   Remember those articles back in the 70’s and early 80’s, presenting quasi-scientific studies indicating that by the year 2000, our traffic would average some ungodly slow speed?  We’re here.

It all comes down to getting across the 405, and completing the escape from the toney environs of West LA – that’s what the media loves to call West LA: “toney,’ or ‘tony,’ your choice.  There are only a handful of routes which can get you across the 405.  Try driving any of them eastward: Sunset, Wilshire, Olympic, Pico – it doesn’t matter, say, between 8 and 10am or between 3:30pm and 7pm.  Buckle in, and put your seat backs and tray tables in their full locked and upright position, for a teeth-gnashing, hair-pulling, stomach- crunching drive time experience . . . . .

Since there are only four real ways to get across the 405 – add a fifth, via Ohio, but that one funnels down to one lane each way and can back up in total gridlock for 10 blocks or so at the drop of a roadmap – why is it such a scene of gridlocked madness?  Remember the 1993 movie “Falling Down,” where Michael Douglas’ unemployed character, William Foster, has a mental melt-down while stuck in his car in hellacious LA gridlock, and finally just gets out and walks across LA, meeting the strange and stranger, and getting increasingly weirder himself?

Here’s all it would take to solve this maddening problem – you heard it here first.

A dozen part-time traffic cops with white gloves and whistles.  That’s right.

You see, the problem is really a simple one to fix.  In the kind of intense gridlock that we feature daily here in West LA, you can find yourself stopped and watching the traffic light change from green (you can’t go because the intersection is blocked) to red, back again to green (you still can’t go; even if the cars originally blocking you are gone now, since there are only four, or five pinch points, the next group has now turned into your intersection and blocked you again), and repeat, rinse and lather.  This goes on until those fantasies of owning that James Bond Aston Martin Vanquish, armed with the retractable machine gun ports and oil sprayer, among other uber-violent goodies, starts sounding better to you than ever before.

If white gloved and be-whistled traffic cops were strategically positioned at the worst of these intersections, this flow of cars coming across to fill the intersection during the traffic light changes, would not happen every time your light turns green, leaving you motionless and fuming as you watch green go to red and back to green again without moving an inch.  The traffic cops could control the flow as they see best, and, yes, all would get where they are headed a whole lot faster.

Oh yes, and it would be a terrific help if the City Traffic Engineers could see their way to coordinate the traffic lights as you go west to east from West LA.  Presently, you can look down the road at the array of distinctly un-coordinated lights, like a sick version of a 21stC urban, vehicular Christmas Tree, all lit up green and red, and in no particular order.  This does nobody any good – coordinated traffic lights should, under normal circumstances, allow you to travel at a legal rate of speed and make all the green lights, once you get your timing down.

There are a couple of instances, like when you travel through Beverly Hills on Olympic, where the lights could not be more adversely uncoordinated if you tried to create havoc; it throws off miles of cars lined up to get wherever they are trying to get, without having a Falling Down moment.  Lights can easily be coordinated, even where one is technically located in the City of LA and one in the City of Beverly Hills, or Santa Monica, and this would not challenge our current understanding of physics of the universe in any meaningful way.  But, it might get you home/to work a whole lot faster.

And, just wait, with Road Construction Season in full swing, this additional factor of closing the 405 – Wilshire on- and off-ramps, could be the tipping point.   One fine night, gridlock may simply shut down the West Side of LA entirely –like ‘Charley on the MTA’ in that fine old folk song, you can have your spouse standing out on Santa Monica Blvd., handing you a sandwich, a diet coke, and a change of underwear!  The only thing worse would be another visit from President Obama to his Beverly Hills donors, closing streets unannounced, to complete the descent of West LA into utter and complete vehicular bedlam.

So, there it is.  We all go mad sitting in West LA gridlock, or we bite the bullet and field that dozen white-gloved traffic cops with whistles.  It ain’t rocket science, folks!