L.A. Traffic on Christmas as an economic indicator

So, one of the things I love about living in L.A., about having some of my family here in L.A., about spending the Holidays in L.A., is the Soothing Peace of there being an almost complete lack of Traffic over the Christmas Holiday.

Now that the Holidays are behind us, I thought it might be a good time to reflect upon how that was completely fucked up this year and totally not the case. Thanks 2009, there’s another thing you couldn’t get right.

And in keeping with the spirit of the times, in a effort to flow with the popular zeitgeist, much as many of our politicians and mainstream news figures and media outlets do, I fully intend to blame something that pisses me off on the economy.

However, unlike most talking heads and pundits, I not only know that I have no real idea what I’m talking about, but I’m fully copping to it. Right here in front of folks.

I have no formal training in economics. The closest I’ve come to a college education is having driven through Westwood. Most of what I know about String Theory comes from reading XKCD, but I intend to share my theory that Christmas Traffic in L.A. is an indicator of the general economic state of our fine city, as much or more than sales receipts on Black Friday.

If that sounds like fun to you, if that’s your kind of Train Wreck, follow me over the Jump:

Los Angeles is somewhat unique in that a vast number of its residents are not actually from here. More so, I think, than many, if not most, other major cities anywhere. At least at this point in time.

That is what it is. I, personally find it neither good nor bad, it just is. I myself am part native, part transplant; I was born in L.A. county, but thanks to the nomadic nature of much of my upbringing, I moved back here in my early Twenties. I’ve known a lot of people who celebrate, or at least hold significant, their “L.A. Day,” that is, the day they moved to L.A.

So, basically, most years at Christmas, people fly into New York, but they fly out of L.A. A huge chunk of the people who aren’t from here fly to where ever it is they still, on some level, consider home. Whatever. Maybe they just go to where their parents are, but they leave. (Thanksgiving they usually stay here and attend huge dinner gatherings with friends. Two trips in one season is expensive for anyone, but I digress…)

Now, while I can site many, many specific examples from people I’ve known over the years, the evidence, year after year, is usually the complete lack of traffic Christmas Day.

Most years, I’ll get in my car to drive from Hollywood to go to my Grandma’s house in Culver City, it’ll be a beautiful, clear day, just slightly brisk and almost no one on the road. Almost magic. I have a friend who says he likes to go to Pink’s Hotdogs on Holidays like this, because it’s the only time there’s no line. (Truly a Christmas Miracle)

Not this year. There was all kinds of traffic. Was it lighter than normal Thursday traffic? Well, yes, but Christmas Traffic in L.A. has, most years, seriously, been non-existent. Almost a ghost town. One or two cars on the road. Fifteen minutes to Culver City without speeding!!

But as I looked in shock at the other people on the road, I realized, a lot of people were broke as shit this year. A lot of people I know personally were unable to go see their folks this year.

Here in Los Angeles we have been in the grips of recession twice as long as the rest of the country. That Writer’s Strike crippled this town a year before the housing bubble burst. We were just pulling up a little when that came crashing in. The whole country’s economy goes to shit, and here in L.A. we were kind of like, “Hey, thanks for joining us.” People in other parts of the country have no idea. It was just a news item to them, if they paid attention at all. It was a DVR┬áinconvenience. (Hell, I ended up homeless for a minute, but that’s another story.)

I’ll tell you what, though; through all of that, the painters here kept painting, the writers kept knocking stuff out on their laptops and in their moleskines at coffee shops, more people than I’ve ever seen before found cameras and filmed stuff and put it up on You Tube or where ever they could find.

There’s a reason all those people move here, they move here to create. And I sincerely hope that this year, this decade, with this new start we are all afforded, all those bitches make enough money to fly the hell back to wherever the hell they come from on Christmas, so I can get just one damn day of Peace and Quiet! Jesus. (Happy Birthday.)

In all seriousness, A Very Happy New Year, and a Very Prosperous New Decade to You and Yours, and All of Us.


6 thoughts on “L.A. Traffic on Christmas as an economic indicator”

  1. True dat. Also adding to the reason nobody left town, in spite of a shit economy, ticket prices have been astronomical. Even the people whose incomes haven’t taken a ding couldn’t afford the same flights they took previously.

    On the bright side, its not like any of us were stuck in a city where the weather blows and there’s nothing to do.

  2. Totally, epically accurate. Good observation, Rob.

    Yes. Memo to the airlines: take a page from Virgin & lower your prices. I know this sounds crazy, but if you lower your prices, MORE PEOPLE WILL FLY. And then you won’t have to raise your prices. And then I can get a holiday of peace when all these midwest yahoos go home to Armpit, Nebraska with their Big City Dollars.

  3. I can think of several economic indicators:

    Gambling: it is down and for sure gamblers no longer take IOUs

    Drinking:When people can’t afford to drown their sorrows then the thief of liquor is also up.

    Strangely crime is not higher. Usually people who are in trouble start to steal.

  4. Are you people all new in LA? There’s still a big exodus to go home (Mexico) for Christmas, and most people do, even if times are tough. Maybe all Anglos fly home to Wisconsin, but the rest of us drive south.

    And we don’t move here to “create”, we move here to eat.

  5. I thought people moved here to get bulimia and NOT eat?

    Kidding, kidding. Look, I’ve lived here all of my 30..mumble mumble…years, and while yes, the city does empty, it didn’t empty as much this year. Traffic was unusually shit-tastic. I don’t know what kind of traffic flows home to Mexico. I’d presume it’s a fair amount.

    Tangentially, I heard an NPR story the other night about how fewer Mexican expats are willing to return to, or extend financial help to, communities back at home: the recent killing of the school administrator from El Monte underlined the fear many are feeling about connecting to the homeland, which is so overrun with drug crime. At least, that’s what the guests seemed to be saying. But that’s a side issue to this.

  6. Offensive on so many levels.

    An estimated 900,000 Mexicans go home for the holidays each December, and many of them are forced to pay bribes to customs and immigration agents, reports La Opini├│n. To reduce corruption and extortion by Mexican authorities, the Mexican government has expanded its Paisano Program, which provides information stations for travelers at airports and bus stations.

    Extortion has declined since the program began in 1988, as more travelers feel safe filing complaints, according to Juan Marcos Gutierrez Gonzalez, Mexican consul general in Los Angeles. However, corruption continues to be a problem: Mexicans returning to Mexico this holiday season are expected to pay nearly $100 million in extortion to customs officials and police agents, according to a report by Mexico’s Congress.

    And yes, the drug violence is keeping many of us here.


Comments are closed.