Fly around the city (literally)
If you have anything at all to do with Los Angeles, then you know about Carmageddon, the closure of the 405 — 10 miles northbound, 4 miles southbound — between the Los Angeles Basin and the San Fernando Valley this coming weekend. One of my favorite airlines, JetBlue, ran today a ‘Carmageddon Fly-Over’ deal that has since sold out, offering four $4 flights between Long Beach and Burbank this Saturday. The two airports are about 33 miles apart as the crow (plane?) flies: roughly twice as far as O’Hare is from Midway, or one-and-a-half times as far as JFK is from Newark or Dulles from National.
Novelty aside — if I happened to be in the Los Angeles area, I probably wouldn’t have been able to resist the chance to take a 30-mile flight — JetBlue’s clever Carmageddon publicity stunt serves to point out the essentially two-pronged nature of the United States’ transportation system: auto and air. Americans are generally heavily to solely reliant on private cars for short-distance and planes for medium-haul and long-haul travel. It’s odd that in a transportation situation where cars are out — such as the 405 closure this weekend — we jump straight to air, a medium more suited to Long Beach, N.Y. to Burbank than Long Beach, Calif. to Burbank.
Of course, JetBlue’s 30-mile flight isn’t a practical form of intracity transportation and isn’t really meant to be anything more than a stunt (and a good one, too). The scheduled flight times are 30-40 minutes, but when you consider time spent getting to and from the airport and security, the time spent is probably about 60-70 minutes overall. The FAA and local authorities have had to specially coordinate the flights because they’re flying well below normal cruising altitude, and these flights would have to priced well above $4 to be profitable.
But while most of the Facebook comments on the Los Angeles Times’ article on the Fly-Over address their un-green nature or PR value, there are a couple who wish these flights were actually regular. Hopefully, some of these commenters — among the vast number of Angelenos not hopping on the next flight to Burbank this weekend — will instead take advantage of the improved LA metro transit service this weekend and realize that your transport choices don’t have to be just auto or air; that indeed there can be, and there are, other choices besides a gimmicky PR flight and an apocalypse-inducing closed freeway.