Hi there! Welcome to my very miscellaneous blog. Here, I write about everything from mis-used words to gardening, to bad habits in society to going places and seeing things! Enjoy my ramblings.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Observations on Traffic Problems

Did you ever wonder why the traffic is so bad? We need look no further than our illustrious city planners, state highway engineers, and laws made but not enforced.
While it is surely true that the traffic has increased many times from what it was even 20 years ago, that is only part of the problem. Many of the attempts to "fix" problem traffic areas are misguided, and do not even make sense on the surface, let alone bear up under scrutiny. For example, below is a short list of "ideas-not-well-thought-through:"
  • Carpool lanes
  • Metering lights
  • One-way streets
  • Traffic circles (or "rotaries")

Each and every one of these so-called "solutions" has exactly the opposite of its intended effect. The traffic is not reduced or made to move faster; all that happens is that the problem has been re-located from one area to another.

The first two usually deal with freeways. What happens in the case of carpool lane privileges is threefold: first, the rest of the traffic is squeezed into the remaining lanes of freeway, making less room for the same number of vehicles; next, there are, and always will be, violators, who use the 'carpool' lane as a normal passing lane, weaving in and out of traffic, or simply ignore the rule and drive in it anyway, defeating the purpose; lastly, other drivers, disgusted with the additional clogging of the highway by the lane reduction, simply find another route, thereby impacting a different set of streets.

Also not considered in this "solution," is the fact that there are many, many people for whom carpools are simply not possible. To name a few: the service technician who must carry a supply of tools and parts needs his own vehicle; the real estate agent showing properties; the sales rep calling on various clients; the mom doing grocery shopping; various small delivery services; landscapers/gardeners, etc, etc. All need a vehicle of their own, or one they drive by themselves, whether the car belongs to them personally, or to the company for which they work. Not one single person in this category (and there are many, many of them) is able to either carpool or use public transit! So, all these people making an honest living are penalized for "failure" to use a carpool, and squeezed into the remaining traffic lanes to sit through time-wasting traffic jams, when in fact, the only "failure" is that of the person or committee that came up with the 'carpool lane' idea in the first place.

In the case of metering lights, the actual fault is less with the number of cars entering the highway than it is with the drivers attempting to merge not understanding that the purpose of the acceleration lane is to come up to the speed of traffic already on the highway, and merge in smoothly; not come to a dead stop, and sit there stupefied waiting for oncoming traffic to 'give them a break.'

The second half of this problem does lie with the lack of manners of 99% of drivers on the road, failing to move over, wave in, or otherwise allow incoming traffic to merge in smoothly. This "ME FIRST" attitude is responsible for more accidents and cases of road rage than anyone thinks.

Lastly, the metering lights merely have the effect of moving the back-up onto surface streets, more often than not ill-equipped to handle the extra traffic, and causing jams for those trying to simply navigate the city streets.

One-way streets are a 20/20 hindsight problem in which city planners failed to allow for future growth, and made the street too narrow to accomodate both traffic and parking. The real solution is not making the street one-way, but to disallow parking during commute hours. Making one-way streets is yet another way to simply divert the problem to another street. It also wastes everyone's time, causing them to take circuitous detours because "you can't get there from here" on one-way streets! Consider this analogy: would you attempt to make a blanket longer by cutting off one end and sewing it to the opposite end? That is exactly how well a one-way street solves a traffic problem.

Traffic circles, or "rotaries" as they are known in some areas, cause confusion and frustration, are another waste of time, and are the direct fault of city planners trying to make their city look "quaint." This is a very inefficient means of routing traffic, as too many streets come together in one area. Instead of, for example, simply making a left turn into the next street over to your left, as with a normal 4-way intersection, you must drive to the right, all the way around the circle, moving away from the desired direction, until at last you have come back nearly to the starting point, in order to now make a right turn into the street that used to be on your left.

The worst offence of all, however, is in areas experiencing a lot of new growth, whether that be homes, businesses, or a combination of both. Constantly on display are inadequate older streets, 2-lane roads, and huge amounts of newly-generated traffic which simply cannot be accomodated.

Yet the city has allowed all this growth to happen without bothering to first beef up the infrastructure! They do it backwards. Constantly. How often we go down roads and highways, seeing all sorts of road construction surrounding these new areas, and messing up the traffic severely, after the fact of all the new building projects. This should have been done first!

Finally, we come to the problem of laws not being enforced. New traffic laws are made all the time, yet the personnel to enforce them does not exist. Enforcement happens only on a haphazard catch-as-catch-can basis. How often we see moronic behavior behind the wheel, such as applying make-up; talking on the phone; reading maps; turning around to yell at kids in the back; and countless things other than paying strict attention to one's driving! Everyone knows what at "DUI" charge is. But there are also laws against driving with undue distractions....how often do you see that enforced?

The solutions, my friends, lie with you...each and every one of you! Get vocal.. attend your city council meetings, be informed of new projects in your areas, speak up when you see impending bad ideas. Communicate with your state representatives about the needs of your area, and new laws.

Oh, and let's keep an eye onourselves, as well...do we really, really need to make that phone call right that minute? Can't it wait until we are parked? Let's not become part of the problem. It is up to each and every one of us to make a difference....every day.

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