Sunday, July 20, 2008

GLOWing or GLOWering?

Yes, the Militant was one of the 45,000 or so people who packed the Santa Monica pier area on Saturday night for GLOW. He was there between 1 to 3 a.m., and though he seriously considered riding his bike there (he's biked from his compound to the coast more than once before), he hopped in the car, which was a nice ride up until right by the Lincoln Ave exit on the 10, where he was a few feet away being rear-ended.

Yes, parking in Santa Monica was nucking futs on Saturday night, even at 12:30 a.m. He finally found the open lot at Santa Monica College's Madison Campus on Santa Monica and 11th Street which was openly accessible to the boulevard yet only had about a dozed cars parked in it. Serenipitously, the Militant saw an approaching Metro Local Line 4 bus right away, and, armed with his TAP card, hopped aboard for a quick ride to the Promenade area.

The automobile traffic was really nothing compared to the pedestrian traffic, as the intersection of 2nd and Colorado had over a hundred pedestrians at all four corners, anxiously awaiting clearance by a traffic cop. Yet, that was still nothing compared to the multitudes stuffed on the Pier itself (pictured left), which was closed off to people entering it at around 1 a.m. The sound of emergency vehicles entering the Pier wasn't encouraging at all, and the cautious Militant wondered at the potential loss of human life in the event of a sudden stampede. If you were a terrorist plotting to set damage to the Pier, you would have had a total field day on this night. So the Militant got his camo-covered ass out of there and onto the way less-congested Palisades Park.

Other blog accounts will talk about the art and the experience. The Militant conservatively estimates that perhaps 20% of the entire crowd, most of whom are between age 20 and 40, has their own blog of some form. That's about 900 blog posts on this event, and you've probably read 20% of that already by now. So the Militant will take another angle.

Standing on the cliffs of Palisades Park, looking out into the beach area, and wanting to reach the exhibits and events there, he noticed that Pacific Coast Highway formed an inaccessible moat where the only nearby entry points were the Pier and the PCH pedestrian bridge, also experiencing heavy foot traffic (ironically, it seemed the easiest way to reach the seaside activities were by swimming there). The Militant was eventually able to reach the beach, and likened the whole experience to Grad Night at Disneyland, where a familiar place normally visited during the daytime takes on a whole new context in the early morning hours.

The success of the event was also its inherent failure -- the limitations of automobile transport. The existing parking infrastructure was too burdened that it eventually became an inconvenience to go to as well. The only transit modes there -- Metro and Santa Monica Big Blue buses -- were at the mercy of their infrequent late night schedules (though the buses coincidentally came when the Militant needed them that night) as well as the fact that they, too, can also be stuck in traffic. Also, in this era of $4+ gas, looking around for parking also burns fuel you could have used for more worthwhile uses.

Case in point: The Songkran Thai New Year Festival this past April in Thai Town had even more attendees -- over 50,000 in fact, in a slightly smaller time frame, yet because of the adjacent Hollywood/Western subway station being, like right there, a large number of them took the (M) Red Line to that event. And though that created problems of its own, it still did not substantively impact street and freeway traffic in the same manner that GLOW did.

So perhaps the City of SaMo and the Santa Monica Arts Foundation should consider the following for future GLOW events:
  • A satellite parking/shuttle bus system a la Hollywood Bowl
  • Implementing a water ferry system from other beach cities to Santa Monica
  • Moving the whole damn event to the nearest Metro station (Washington/National Expo Line station in Culver City? Blue Line/Downtown Long Beach?)
  • Postponing the next one until the Exposition Line reaches Santa Monica (because you know that Subway To The Sea thing is gonna take a while...)
Despite the whining and grumbling, the Militant took interest inj this event because it sounded like a clever deviation from the norm -- the beach open all night, this amazing (over?) use of public space, the visual impact of it all -- and even for that the Militant thought it was a great event. Besides, randomly running into some of his operatives there was rather rewarding as well (those things usually happen if you grew up here, or lived here for a very long time...). But yes, crowd control and planning do make for everything.

The Militant looks forward to the next GLOW, and for that one, he's gonna remember to ride the bike there.

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