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Why Popemageddon Traffic Jams Didn't Happen (But Still Could)

As L.A.’s Carmageddon proved a few years ago, congestion alerts can be extremely effective—until they wear off.
Pope Francis's visit to Washington, D.C. on September 23, 2015, didn't lead to crippling traffic.
Pope Francis's visit to Washington, D.C. on September 23, 2015, didn't lead to crippling traffic.AP Photo/Alex Brandon, Pool

The arrival of Pope Francis into Washington, D.C., was supposed to bring with it ungodly traffic jams. But morning rush came and went in the nation’s capital Wednesday without so much as a hint of the predicted Popemageddon. Metro ridership was down 14 percent on a week ago, and Politico reported major traffic jams were “few and far between”:

All due respect to Battagliese, Syrian refugees are surviving. D.C. commuters are responding exactly how recent experience in other cities suggested they would. When Los Angeles faced Carmageddon—the complete shutdown of a 10-mile stretch of Interstate 405 for an entire weekend—a few years back, traffic levels plunged along the freeway and nearby roads, according to an analysis by UC transport scholars Brian Taylor and Martin Wachs. L.A.’s sequel, Carmageddon II, failed to live up to the original, but traffic congestion still dropped significantly then, too.