Carmageddon - The Untold Story
I overplayed my hand when I tried to bet people that the 405 would be open on time. When they looked at me suspiciously and ask 'why', I foolishly told them. After listening to my explanation, no one would take me up on the bet.
How did I know it would be done on time or early?
Argument one: The construction company and the workers had 'skin' in the game - capitalism at work. I read in countless articles about the penalties that would be incurred for every 10 minutes over deadline but only once did I hear of the $300,000 bonus to be paid for opening the freeway early or being on time.
Next, every worker did everything needed. There were no required union breaks, lunches or special permission to do a task outside of one's job description. If a nail needed to be driven, it was driven. No waiting for an employee whose 'contract' permitted him to drive it or waiting until the guys came back from lunch or mandatory breaks. This allowed them to work as a team (like basketball) because they were not compartmentalized by union rules and regulations. Plus, the people were selected for their skill and expertise, not because of seniority.
These aren't all the reasons but what it does prove is - when things come down to 'push and shove' even the union elected officials and unions themselves know where to turn for true performance - the private sector. But the unions weren't excluded for they took "this opportunity" to clean and perform maintenance work on the slumbering roadway.
Sunday morning found L.A.'s Mayor Villaraigosa on the airwaves touting the early reopening of the 405 freeway. He thanked all the motorists (in English and Spanish) for their cooperation and for staying home with their families and neighbors, stating it as if this had changed their priorities and living habits. He also attributed the success, in large part, to the use of public buses and trains. (Really? Then why did the 10 minute flight from Burbank to Long Beach, offered by Jet Blue, sell out so fast?)
It wasn't CALTRANS, the Mayor, public transportation or the wonderful people of L.A. It was the nonunion, private sector, 'capitalism incarnate' construction company that saved the day. Yet they were not mentioned. But that's okay because they weren't in it for fame, just the fortune.
Can you imagine if private companies were unleashed to bid on the border fence?! Next time I'll keep my mouth shut and just rake the bets in.