Archive for October, 2010

Ever Got Stuck Behind a Metrobus Blocking the Right Lane?

October 20, 2010 1 comment

Bus Bay

As I contemplated switching lanes to get from behind a bus about to stop during my morning commute, this thought came to me: why is it that buses always slow down the progress of traffic in the far right lane? 

It’s almost like that lane is being held hostage temporarily — you can’t drive behind the bus without being paranoid that it will stop literally at any moment.  

Since bus-only lanes aren’t always feasible, isn’t there a solution that would allow traffic in that lane to flow as freely as the other two lanes?  The answer is yes — a bus bay would be an easy fix to this problem. 

I’ve seen bus bays around the Washington, D.C. – Baltimore area, but why aren’t they used at every bus stop, considering this area is heavily congested with automobile traffic on a daily basis? 

Not having them creates delays for those frustrated drivers who get stuck behind buses at bus stops only to watch the other two lanes whiz on by.  A road rage inducer for sure. 

Just wanted to share a quick thought…what do you think?

O’Malley’s Light Rail or Ehrlich’s Bus Rapid Transit: Which One is Better for Us?

October 13, 2010 4 comments

O'Malley and Ehrlich Televised Debate 10/11/10

On one hand, you have O’Malley’s plans for light rail.  On the other hand, you have Ehrlich’s bus rapid transit system.  Which one do you think is better for Washington, D.C. metro area commuters? 

As per usual, there are plenty of pros and cons on each side.  Bus rapid transit would involve setting aside bus-only lanes (not sure if this means stealing existing lanes from automobile traffic or not) along portions of existing routes.  The light rail would be built along an existing route and would not create additional traffic

Baltimore Sun’s Michael Dresser says Ehrlich’s bus rapid transit system would be a little cheaper to build — estimates are $1.2 billion — as opposed to $1.68 billion for O’Malley’s light rail project.  However, at an estimated $5.9 billion, the annual operating costs for buses quickly turn that positive on its head — light rail would only cost about half of that — an estimated $3.2 million annually.  

Ehrlich — who is not opposed to not building anything at all — says the money is simply not there to build.  Light rail proponents at Maryland Transit Authority disagree, saying that money could be made available soon through President Obama’s long-term transportation bill.  

Developers, proponents of transit-oriented development, the Prince George’s County council, the Montgomery County council, and a host of area businesses like the idea of light rail because it has a permanency that rapid bus transit does not that would make it ideal for becoming hubs of future business activity, creating much-needed jobs in the area.     

There are more pros and cons of both, but I’ll stop right here.  Personally, I’m for O’Malley’s decision to go with light rail.  It would be a shame to waste almost a decade of planning and the $40 million that MTA has already invested into deciding which way to go, only to implement the more expensive of the two — or even worse — nothing at all. 

Do you have an opinion about this one way or another?  Don’t be shy – I’m very interested in learning your thoughts.

Prejudiced Against SUVs?

October 6, 2010 1 comment


Courtesy of Steven Johnson

When it comes to driving, I can admit to being prejudiced against SUVs (and minivans, too, for that matter) merging in my lane ahead of me because I drive a compact car.  To others, this prejudice may seem like just a shallow opinion or preference.  But to me, this is a safety concern. 

My issue is that I can’t see around SUVs.  In a compact car, driving behind one is like driving with a wall in front of you.  Can you see through a wall?  No, not unless you’re Superman!  What makes this worse is that SUVs usually have tinted windows.      

Driving behind large vehicles creates a visual impairment that severely limits my ability to make quick decisions should something bad happen on the highway ahead in my lane.  For example, if there was a multiple car pileup ahead, I may not be able to see it in enough time to get out of harm’s way.  I also wouldn’t be able to avoid running over/into that large thingamajig in the road that would give my little car a flat tire.  And there have been many times when I had little to no notice to react because the SUV ahead of me suddenly changed lanes (without signaling) to avoid a turning car or stopped traffic in our lane.  

I am an alert driver who prides herself in knowing who is around me at all times.  That is how I was taught to drive.  So I am not comfortable driving on the road if I have a huge blind spot directly in front of me.  

My solution?  Ultimately, that people would stop buying at least the mammoth-sized SUVs and purchase regular-sized automobiles.  In the meantime, my modus operandi is to seek out a spot behind a vehicle I can see around and then change lanes.  Unfortunately for me, sometimes this means changing lanes often because — ever since the blizzard of 1996 — the roadways are evermore crawling with these menacing behemoths.  

P.S. – Another alternative would be to drive one of these nifty vehicles from the imagination of Steven Johnson — although I don’t foresee carmakers cranking out any of these for public use in the near future.  Oh well!

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