Los Angeles is the undisputed king of gridlock on a daily basis, but when the president comes to town -- which he does again Monday night -- the city is virtually paralyzed.
But why? Does it have to be this way? Is there such a massive safety concern that the second biggest city in the country needs to stop functioning?
If you don't live in Los Angeles, it's difficult to grasp just how maddening this can be. (Just imagine if Los Angeles was a Republican town. Then again, Obama probably wouldn't be here if it was.) People leave work hours early, if they come in at all, some schools close, kids sports practices are cancelled, dinners are called off -- it's a scheduling mess for anyone trying to get anywhere.
President Obama is making a fundraising visit to the City of Angels on Monday (it doesn't help his cause when it's a $35,800-a-plate dinner). He will helicopter from the airport to the Westside, and then his motorcade will wind through the streets to West Hollywood. And "wind" is the right word. There's no freeway that connects the two so it's essentially all sidestreets.
All of those streets, of course, will be closed to every other kind of traffic besides the president.
The problem is, or some reason, officials close many of those streets several hours before the motorcade actually needs them. This creates a traffic nightmare.
For example, one major street in West Hollywood closed at 6 a.m. Monday -- a full 10 hours before Obama's limousine will touch its asphalt. And it will remain closed until noon on Tuesday for reasons unknown.
This has happened on past presidential visits as well. During one visit last year, several major arteries were shut down so Obama could get to a party in ritzy Hancock Park. Those streets remained closed for hours while Obama was safely inside, just waiting for him to exit and take the same roads back to his hotel. Angry Angelenos complained that trips that usually took minutes instead took hours.
Why not reopen the streets, and then close them again when necessary? New York City, for example, does that all the time. Why can't an Obama motorcade be treated like a very important funeral procession. The cops ride ahead, close off intersections -- and the motorcade moves through.
So why this web of closures, and for so long?
Actually, L.A. Councilman Bill Rosendahl says,the Secret Service makes the ultimate decisions about road closures -- not the city of Los Angeles.
"It is my hope they have learned from previous visits and understand that Angelenos already face gridlock on a daily basis and will not tolerate lengthy delays due to the president's visit,'' Rosendahl said.
Sure, it is easier just to keep the streets closed. But what about the common Joe who just wants to get home after a hard day at work? In a city built around the car, there must be a better way.