|(The following excerpts are from a large article about the début of the Diamond Lane on
the Santa Monica freeway in 1976. While many were reacting and overreacting, Dick had
his own particular take on this historical moment.)
|LANE SHALL NOT BE CLOSED BY CONGESTION ALONE
By Barry Siegel (L A Times March 22, 1976)
Diary of a Freeway: No Fear of Flying
If ever a gambling man were going to bet on a revolt by citizenry of Los Angeles, the start of the
Santa Monica Freeway Diamond Lane last week would have been the proper moment.
But it is difficult to start a revolution. So this is, instead, the story of an uprising that has yet to
Despite elaborate advance warning, only a few rebels were actively conspiring the week before the
lane’s birth. “Sweet Dick” Whittington at KFI radio was one.
“I realized then that this was going to be a big issues,” Whittington explains, “because people
started phoning in. They were putting me on a little and I was putting them on a little. How else can
they vent themselves.”
Wednesday, March 10: Whittington proposes renting senior citizens from nursing homes to round
out three-passenger carpools, using federal subsidy funds. “You get the Diamond Land and they
get a chance to be out in the fresh air.”
Thursday, March 11: Whittington stages a funeral for the fast lane of the Santa Monica Freeway.
One woman shows up dressed in a casket. Whittington reads eulogies as the crowd walls and
sobs. Some 20 cars at noon roll up the freeway’s Vermont onramp. “I treated the fast lane as a
friend we were losing,” Whittington explains quietly.
Friday, March 12: Whittington, citing Darwinism, calls Caltrans project manager Gary Bork, asking
if carrying a snail, slug and worm in a box would qualify the driver for the Diamond Lane. Bork
doesn’t think so, explaining, “I’m a Christian.”
Monday, March 15 (the day the Lane is opened and you-know-what hits the fan-Don-O)
The day’s events give Whittington another idea. He calls the CHP to ask if he can drive in the
Diamond Lane if he is a carpooler but his two passengers are sick. “I would have letters from them
stating they are ill.” The CHP doesn’t bite.
Whittington calls Bork at Caltrans with another idea. The Government subsidizes farms for not
growing wheat. The government should subsidizes drivers for not driving.
Bork says he’ll put it in the hopper with the other ideas.
Wednesday, March 17: Whittington is generally snubbed. “It’s over now. I think it has peaked. It’s
a fait accompli. It’s amazing how we adapt.” Pause. “But this was the biggest deal I’ve had on my
show. Will, this plus that time last November when I married the Queen Mary.”
Friday, March 19: Whittington halfheartedly proposes outfitting cars with one-way window mirrors,
“so you can see out but the CHP can’t see in.” But even he concedes that’s probably not legal.
His dejected conclusion: “The whole thing has just sort of dried up. Quite frankly, people are
beginning to condition themselves. They just buy whatever is given them. That’s it.”