Carmageddon: Shutdown bad for taxi drivers
Officials said they're pleased that construction on the 405 Freeway is running ahead of schedule during "Carmageddon," but area taxi drivers said Saturday afternoon that the freeway closure has been nothing but bad news.
Mark Rivkind, 60, has been a taxi driver in Los Angeles for 10 years and said he doesn't remember ever encountering a day like this. Saturdays are typically the slowest day of the week for business, and Rivkind aims for about 10 trips. On a busy day, he'll make 15 or 16, maybe more. Saturday, it was already noon and he had only made one.
"No Carmageddon!" he said emphatically, smoking a cigarette and waiting for a customer outside a terminal at Los Angeles International Airport. "It's open!" He said he had never seen the 405 that clear.
He suspects Carmageddon turned out to be a bust because all the warnings had worked.
"They scared people," he said with a chuckle. "Maybe it's not so bad, like they expected."
Norman Berenshteyn, who works for the Independent Cab Co., agreed that Saturday was off to a sluggish start.
"It's slow," he said as he waited for customers outside the Tom Bradley International Terminal just after 11 a.m. At that point, he had been waiting for about an hour and a half for a customer.
Once on the road, Berenshteyn said traffic wasn't bad at all, especially near downtown, where he said he traveled 65 mph and was the only vehicle for a two-mile stretch.
"I wish it was like that everyday," he said.
Usually, Rivkind said, the worst part of town to maneuver is the 405, from LAX to the 101 Freeway.
"It's the most hated freeway, any time of day," he said.
So he already knows ways to dodge, taking Centinela Avenue or other surface streets — "it's experience, you know" — but when it's open, experience has taught him that 405 traffic can be lucrative for a taxi driver.
"If you want to make more money, don't avoid it," he said.
But Rivkind had to dash. Finally, another customer.
-- Rick Rojas and Jane Engle at LAX
Photo: A view from the 17th floor of the Angeleno Hotel on Sunset Boulevard shows a deserted stretch of the 405 Freeway on Saturday afternoon. Credit: Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times