July/August 2015 home page

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Living in Traffic
Karen Lockwood | Crest Road

You aren’t the only one who has seen traffic on I-5 increase to the point of predictable slowdowns and full stops during many hours of the day. It’s one thing to send NASA astronaut Scott Kelly into space for a year — but what about the millions of us on the ground unnoticed and unstudied surviving in harsh conditions that will only get worse?

Recognizing this D.O.T. has awarded CALTRANS a two-year grant of $4.5 million to study how to prevent future deaths from dehydration and starvation on stalled freeways. The researchers will place two volunteer drivers, sitters actually, on a freeway. They will remain in average-sized cars with no modification of the interiors on stopped freeways for one year. One in San Diego the other in L.A.

The CHP will provision the drivers with food, water, waste disposal and coordinate minor medical care that might arise. Deliveries will be made at 3 a.m. every two days and by motorcycle cops to better access the study subjects. Psychologists, anthropologists and physicians will also be involved in the study. Medical and psychological testing of the two subjects will be done monthly via telemetry.
Social scientists hypothesize that small, semi-organized communities will develop naturally among areas where drivers are stalled. Small businesses might flourish selling water, food, sunscreen, batteries, magazines, babysitting, chiropractic therapy, dating services and car sales/swaps. Of course gangs could also develop. Bike racks and bicycles will be a necessity for each car on a freeway to ensure an alternative means of travel off the freeway for appointments, to water the lawn (Oh, yeah that’s going to be a problem too.), etc.

During the second year data and findings will be reviewed and a report issued. This study will help thousands of us survive a future months-long freeway jam up.


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