Only in Los Angeles: Even Our Traffic Jams Are Health Obsessed

L.A.'s Metro riders will get a peek at experimental videos that address health issues.

Kristina Bravo is a Los Angeles–based writer. She is a fellow at TakePart.

Bus commuters aren’t very happy people. In Britain, they have lower life satisfaction, a low sense that their daily activities are worthwhile, and higher anxiety levels than their non-commuting counterparts. On this side of the Atlantic, traffic exhausts Americans too—in particular residents of Los Angeles, who spend an average of 60 hours stuck in jams every year.

To perhaps alleviate passengers' stress while promoting better health, the L.A. Metropolitan Transportation Authority has partnered with the avant-garde media arts organization Freewaves to produce “Live Long LA,” a series of 35 informative videos that focus on health-related topics. Starting Monday, they will be played hourly in more than 2,000 buses throughout Los Angeles County.

Far from typical PSAs, the artist collaborations range from offbeat meditative videos to some pretty frightening animations, each with its own health message. On the upbeat side, Anne Kaneko’s “Feeling Stiff?” demonstrates basic exercises—in Spanish, English, and Chinese—that may or may not lead to spontaneous bus dance numbers. Vaidya R.K. Mishra, an ayurvedic health practitioner, produced a series that focuses on plants and herbs from different cultures, such as turmeric and Russia’s stinging nettle.

Some works explore weightier topics, such as Yoshua Okón’s “Form of Abuse,” a disquieting depiction of how the fast-food industry drives the obesity epidemic. Puerto Rican–born Poli Marichal, on the other hand, addressed depression and low-income health. In “This Is Your Heart,” animated value meals—usually marketed to low-income families—send a heart into cardiac arrest. The arts organization’s executive director, Anne Bray, told KCET, “I think some people will love them, and some people will think, ‘Whoa, this is dark.’ I actually like them a lot. We find that art has very different subjective responses in people.”

“Live Long LA” is expected to reach an estimated 1 million riders daily.  

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