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The Almighty Buck Transportation

Elon Musk Hates 405 Freeway Traffic, Pays Money To Speed Construction 431

Posted by samzenpus
from the hurry-up dept.
S810 writes "Elon Musk, one of the main people behind PayPal, Space Exploration Technologies and Tesla Motors, has paid $50,000 to help Los Angeles speed up construction of the 405 Freeway, making it better and says that he will pay more if needed. From the article: 'Musk said he is open to pay the cost of adding workers to the widening project "as a contribution to the city and my own happiness. If it can actually make a difference, I would gladly contribute funds and ideas. I've super had it." — Musk quips that it's easier getting rockets into orbit than navigating his commute between home in Bel-Air and his Space Exploration Technologies factory in Hawthorne.' For those who aren't familiar with this issue, the 405 Freeway runs from the northern end of the San Fernando Valley all the way down to El Toro and runs by LAX. Residents are getting frustrated that this widening project is over budget and well over the anticipated time frame that it was supposed to completed by."
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Elon Musk Hates 405 Freeway Traffic, Pays Money To Speed Construction

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  • $50k enough? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by jimmyhat3939 (931746) on Thursday April 25, 2013 @07:53PM (#43551249) Homepage

    Does $50k remotely make any dent there? Aren't these projects tens of millions of dollars?

    • Re:$50k enough? (Score:4, Informative)

      by ackthpt (218170) on Thursday April 25, 2013 @07:55PM (#43551273) Homepage Journal

      Does $50k remotely make any dent there? Aren't these projects tens of millions of dollars?

      Probably pays the salary of 1 worker, without benefits, no overtime. A junior one at that.

    • Re:$50k enough? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Trepidity (597) <delirium-slashdo ... g ['ish' in gap]> on Thursday April 25, 2013 @07:58PM (#43551293)

      This project was budgeted at $1 billion dollars, and is currently projected to cost $1.1 billion. So no, $50k is not significant. Also, he didn't even spend the $50k on construction: he paid it to a lobbying group, Angelinos Against Gridlock, whose goal is to speed construction. The group actually looks like one worth supporting (they have a vision that includes both roads and rail improvements and it seems reasonably thought out), so that $50k might be well spent. But it's spent on an advocacy organization, not on construction.

    • by Goody (23843)
      $50K will make the project be completed about four minutes earlier than projected.
    • Ten to one it is a rounding error on his tax dodges oops sorry, tax evasions.

      Anyway, sooner or later, the people always get the government and infrastructure they deserve... the US government and infrastructure rotten to the core? How... unexpected, giving the nature of your average American who rather deny himself a thousand dollars for the fear someone else might get a penny of him.

    • In a study [usc.edu] from the University of Southern California, they say that LA Freeway construction costs are roughly $20M per mile.

      So his $50k buys him 13 feet of roadway.

  • If you want to throw money at the problem of highway construction, you offer a large payout contingent on how quickly it gets done while still within project specifications.

    The workers get paid by the hour and so do the contractor managers most of the time. So to give them money with the promise of "more if needed" will result in pleas of "hey! we need more!!!"

    These people seriously don't understand how it works when highways are constructed with public money -- the recipients never want the money to run

    • by ackthpt (218170) on Thursday April 25, 2013 @08:01PM (#43551321) Homepage Journal

      If you want to throw money at the problem of highway construction, you offer a large payout contingent on how quickly it gets done while still within project specifications.

      The workers get paid by the hour and so do the contractor managers most of the time. So to give them money with the promise of "more if needed" will result in pleas of "hey! we need more!!!"

      These people seriously don't understand how it works when highways are constructed with public money -- the recipients never want the money to run out.

      You know nothing about these construction contracts, which are handled by private firms. There are incentives to get the work done fast. But there are somethings you just can't rush, like having that sandy soil properly settled so new roadbed doesn't continue to settle and end up with cracks and holes. Then there's the matter of having the equipment necessary at various stages there on time, much of it coming from other worksites. There's hundreds of miles of freeways alone in the LA area. I see the same thing where I live. It looks simple enough, until you are in charge of the logistics and find how much more expensive it can be to try rushing things. Maybe if Musk threw several million dollars at the contractors, so they had more equipment they could get some things done faster. Sometimes private industry isn't faster than a good ol' bloated public department with lots of taxpayer dollar funded extra equipment available.

      • by rahvin112 (446269) on Thursday April 25, 2013 @11:48PM (#43552485)

        Settlement is easy to deal with (at a cost, there was a project with projected settlement times of around 5 years that was completed in 60 days through available mitigation measures), the project delays are often driven by the uncontrollable externals that sink every project, those being, required federal environmental documents, utility relocation and ROW acquisition. You simply can't force the electric company to relocate a power line that serves the entire LA valley in the middle of the summer. Nor can you speed up a condemnation process when there are specific time frames required by law to condemn the property of an unwilling seller. Though you hope for a smooth process, in the real world the process is often anything but smooth with no end to headaches. It also doesn't help that construction workers in California have been issued bulletproof vests in the past due to "road rage incidents".

  • by ackthpt (218170) on Thursday April 25, 2013 @07:54PM (#43551263) Homepage Journal

    it's all the cars on it.

    if they built the sort of light rail which the region desperately needs it could cut down on the traffic hugely.

    • by MrEricSir (398214) on Thursday April 25, 2013 @07:58PM (#43551299) Homepage

      Do you really think a guy who runs a car company would want to see public transit improved?

      • by MichaelSmith (789609) on Thursday April 25, 2013 @08:10PM (#43551379) Homepage Journal

        Its the only thing which will make life easier for drivers. Widening this road will just encourage more people to drive, increasing congestion everywhere.

        • by k6mfw (1182893) on Thursday April 25, 2013 @08:47PM (#43551603)
          Imagine a super highway, six lanes wide, will never again be a traffic jam, and it will be beautiful!
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by csumpi (2258986)
      Right. Except that LA's broke. The bills are paid from giving out chicken shit parking and traffic tickets.
    • by sconeu (64226) on Thursday April 25, 2013 @08:58PM (#43551681) Homepage Journal

      There's a reason nobody uses mass transit in LA. All mass transit in LA is based on a faulty assumption -- that everyone wants to go downtown.

      There's no real north/south transit: To get from the Valley to the Westside, you have to go downtown and then back to the Westside.

  • He didn't pay money to speed construction. He spent $50,000 on a consulting organization that would look into how to speed up construction. They did not find a way to do so. But hey, he's learning how these things work: spending $50k to "study" something with no results is exactly how many real projects happen too. ;-)

    A better question might be why L.A. is spending $1.1 billion on widening a freeway, instead of improving its damn transit. Adding another lane is going to be a stop-gap solution at best, and it'll be congested to the hilt within another few years. Is the goal to have 30-lane freeways by 2030 or something?

  • 405 means N/S off shoot to the 5 that reconnect.

    That why there is more then one 405.

    and this make it hard for me to feel sad:
    "is commute between home in Bel-Air and his Space Exploration Technologies factory in Hawthorne."
    What a tragic life he has.
    20 miles through some of the densest population. You can blame the city planners who abandoned the much more logical freeway expansion in the 70's.

    https://maps.google.com/maps?saddr=Hawthorne,+Los+Angeles,+California&daddr=Bel+Air,+Los+Angeles,+CA [google.com]

  • Dear Elon (Score:5, Insightful)

    by geekoid (135745) <dadinportlandNO@SPAMyahoo.com> on Thursday April 25, 2013 @07:56PM (#43551283) Homepage Journal

    You aren't in traffic, you are traffic.

    • by Ichijo (607641)

      "Nobody drives on the 405 anymore. There's too much traffic." --Yogi Berra

  • by TubeReceiver (610037) on Thursday April 25, 2013 @08:05PM (#43551345)
    He lives in BelAir and commutes to Hawthorne ?? Give me a break... that was ridiculous 30 years ago and still is. One word, listen closely... MOVE. Everyone seems to think it's normal to drive these ridiculous long commutes and it's actually a symptom of a screwed up society in love with their crappy cars. Try living closer to work and walk there, or ride your golf cart or something.
    • by Onan (25162)

      Yes, clearly the only reasonable solution is for everyone to move (probably to a vastly different neighborhood with completely different safety and cost) every time they change jobs. Certainly there's nothing in the world wiser than applying for a new mortgage every time you have just started a new job.

      Also, couples or people living together are only allowed to work within four blocks of one another.

  • 405 (Score:2, Interesting)

    by ShakaUVM (157947)

    "The 405 Freeway runs from the northern end of the San Fernando Valley all the way down to El Torro and runs by LAX."

    And is a complete and total piece of shit. Unlike Orange County, which has been upgrading its road network for the last 40 years, LA in the 1970s diverted money away from roads and into mass transit systems (subway, light rail, bus). The net result is the completely clogged arteries of the city, which its vaunted bus network needs dedicated lanes to even barely function in.

    Everyone knows when

    • by Cyberax (705495)
      Actually, LA benefits a LOT even from its current #*$&^#$ mass transit. You see, people who are contributing most to congestion are also most likely to use the mass transit. That was empirically checked during the LA strikes of subway drivers - the congestion skyrocketed even though the increase in number of cars was not that big.
    • Re:405 (Score:5, Insightful)

      by bogjobber (880402) on Friday April 26, 2013 @01:49AM (#43553007)
      Or maybe it's because there are 7 million more people in LA County than in Orange County?

      You can't move a population of 10+ million people around every day by automobile without traffic jams. It's an impossible task. You can eke out tiny improvements, but just as quickly they are overtaken by increased usage and then you're looking at an even larger, more expensive and time-consuming upgrade to keep traffic moving . The 405 is a perfect example of this.

      Auto travel does not scale efficiently and over the long term LA is going to have to significantly improve its mass transit (ie subway, light rail, street cars NOT buses) to have any chance of improving congestion. Thankfully the government understands this and is moving beyond 1950s urban planning policies.

      But it's LA, and no place on earth is more beholden to the notion that a car is freedom and taking public transit is for the unwashed masses. Even when it's obvious to everyone involved that upgrading the freeway system is a huge, inefficient pain in the ass and a waste of public money you still get people like yourself clamoring that they should do *more* of it. It's absurd.
  • by hondo77 (324058) on Thursday April 25, 2013 @08:20PM (#43551431) Homepage
    If he doesn't like his commute so much, maybe he should move closer to "work"? Oh, he wants to live in a densely populated, highly desirable area which means that he knew the commute to Hawthorne was going to suck? Sounds like someone who moves near an airport and complains about the noise.
    • by Dieppe (668614)
      Speaking as someone living in Hawthorne, it's really not so bad here in some neighborhoods. He could live in Playa del Rey and have a view of the ocean, or in a condo in Marina del Rey, and have an uninterrupted view of everything, including ocean. Honestly though, he should just learn how to fly a helicopter. SpaceX is located at an airport afterall. D
  • And ride a bike. In LA you can split lanes, so you can get anywhere pretty fast while looking cool. It (almost) never rains and a nice crotch rocket is probably even more environmentally friendly than his current ride.
  • Hamburger Analogy (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Ichijo (607641)

    Widening the 405 is an expensive and only temporary band-aid to the problem of traffic congestion. The hamburger analogy [streetsblog.net] explains why:

    Let's give everyone free McDonald's hamburgers. Let's put 10,000 hamburgers a day on a table in front of the Capitol (or wherever).

    What would happen? People would take and eat the hamburgers, and once word got out, all 10,000 hamburgers would be taken very quickly every day. We may thus infer that because people need food and they really seemed to like those burgers, McDonald

    • You're describing Jevon's Paradox.

      And you should be downmodded for using a hamburger analogy in a car thread. That's just not right.

    • by mjwx (966435)

      Free hamburgers are like unpriced freeway lanes.

      Not really, a free hamburger is a good, a free highway is a service. That is a critical difference.

      The goal of a highway isn't to accommodate cars, it's to accommodate car movement. This means you dont worry about how many cars you can put on there at any one time rather you are concerned with how quickly you can get a car from point A to point B. Adding tolls to roads does not fix congestion, it just makes it more expensive to sit in congestion. It will also force more traffic onto secondary routes, inc

    • by wisnoskij (1206448) on Thursday April 25, 2013 @10:06PM (#43552023) Homepage

      That is the stupidest thing I have ever heard.
      First off the road is not free. It already costs loads of money to maintain cars, insurance, and gas, and you pay for the road in your taxes. That is like saying the solution to house hold fires is to make people pay x thousand dollars before the firemen turn on the hoses. People do not want to commute in the first place, and they already shelled out the cash to buy those roads/firetrucks.

      Preventing people from travelling/taxing it beyond reason is only something you would want to do if you wanted to stifle the economy.

      There is not a infinite demand for roads. There are a finite number of people trying to go to a finite number of places. And all of them are either going somewhere to make money or to spend it. The only correct way to plan a cities transit system is to provide enough transit to accommodate all of these trips.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by JakartaDean (834076)

        That is the stupidest thing I have ever heard. First off the road is not free. It already costs loads of money to maintain cars, insurance, and gas, and you pay for the road in your taxes. That is like saying the solution to house hold fires is to make people pay x thousand dollars before the firemen turn on the hoses.

        You're very vehement for someone so incorrect. Use of a road is so different from asking for help from the fire department that I don't see what could possibly make you think they're similar. Okay, they're both public services, I get that. After that, nada.

        The way to get the most efficient system is to have supply meet demand, and that cannot be at a price point of zero forever. Having to pay some amount for a service encourages or forces people to make choices, including whether they should work from h

    • The premise of your argument is incorrect.

      People will get a hamburger if they want a hamburger. People don't drive on a road simply because it's there - they drive on a road because they need to get somewhere it goes. In your comparison, you assume that 100% of the population need to use a road, just like 100% of the population need to eat. That is incorrect.

      If you don't build a freeway and people still need to get to that place, they will do it via surface arterials or neighborhood streets causing the n

      • by Ichijo (607641)

        If you don't build a freeway and people still need to get to that place, they will do it via surface arterials or neighborhood streets causing the neighborhoods to become much less safe due to through traffic that should be on a freeway.

        Or they'll carpool or take mass transit and let someone else drive. Or they'll ride a bike and pass all that traffic. Or they'll move closer to where they need to be. Or they'll work a different shift when traffic is lower.

        You bring up a good argument for eliminating minimu

  • Move your company (Score:4, Insightful)

    by asm2750 (1124425) on Thursday April 25, 2013 @08:50PM (#43551629)
    Sure, LA has a great talent pool of engineers, but I am sure it would have been cheaper to just have SpaceX in a region with better managed freeways, and less density. I'm sure the engineers wouldn't mind moving since LA is a hell hole these days when it comes to commuting.
  • by Charliemopps (1157495) on Thursday April 25, 2013 @09:03PM (#43551707)

    Meanwhile, the owner of the construction firm in charge of the project, who's been bleeding the state for every last dime it could just shit himself as he looked up Elon Musks net worth and realized just how much more money he could make if he made the delays even more intolerable.

  • by BlueCoder (223005) on Thursday April 25, 2013 @09:13PM (#43551767)

    The widening project was a travesty of wasted money. It's was more about employing people than it was increasing capacity which they didn't want to do since if you did that the rest of the LA area would suffer more crowning and traffic.

    With the money they had they had available they could have built a layer on top of the existing freeway that could have withstood a 10.0 earthquake. It's really not that long a stretch they are working on. They could possibly have tunneled through the mountains in two or three places with the same amount of money which wouldn't have bothered existing traffic.

    Back in the 50's oil companies bought off LA area city planning. They designed the city for traffic. They decided where the more expensive and less expensive areas would be. Then they put the areas of industry and shopping far away from the cheaper housing which is where more people travel from.

  • by Chrisq (894406) on Friday April 26, 2013 @03:52AM (#43553529)
    Since this article [railstotrails.org] says

    "The cost to construct one lane-mile of a typical 4-lane divided highway can range from $3.1 million to $9.1 million per lane-mile in rural areas depending on terrain type and $4.9 million to $19.5 million in urban areas depending on population size."

    I would see $50,000 as a drop in the ocean. Of course if it is a bribe to get that particular road prioritized then it could be a very effective drop...

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