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If I Could Fix My Commute, I Would…

September 29, 2014 Leave a comment
Eureka!

Eureka!

The Washington Post recently asked my DREAM question in a survey poll: What Would Fix Your Commute?  There are so many possibilities here, I can barely function!

Three things I would do to fix my commute:

(1) A Shorter Commute

I would definitely make it shorter — instead of it taking 40-45 minutes, it would take less than half of that — 15-20 minutes.

(2) A Consistent Commute

This commute would be a consistent 15-20 minutes so I don’t have that sense of dread that often compels me to “step on it” (even when I’m not running late) just in case I run into a monster traffic jam only one or two miles from my destination.

(3) A Budget-Friendly Commute

My desired commute would not cost an arm and a leg.  Sure, I understand the idea behind congestion-based pricing, but let’s be real here.  If I don’t have to pay more, I don’t want to!

If you take the poll I mentioned earlier, they may share the results at a day-long planning event on Oct. 21 called “Fix My Commute.”  At the event, various experts and advocates will gather to discuss solutions to our area’s commuting problems.

So…what would fix your commute?  Feel free to share your insights right here!

Trend: Penalizing Slow Drivers For Not Yielding in Left Lane

June 23, 2014 1 comment
If lawmakers pass these bills, you could get ticketed for this.

If lawmakers pass these bills, you could get ticketed for this.

You’ve seen it a million times: (and you’ve probably shaken your head at) the multicar pileup in the left lane. Most likely, it is because a slow driver is stubbornly refusing to yield to others who would like to drive faster. This always leads to driver frustration, worsened traffic jams, and — at the extreme end — road rage.

And, it has sparked a new trend — towards penalizing slow drivers for not yielding. Maryland lawmakers are proposing a House Bill that reserves the left lane for passing only, except in certain conditions, thereby making it illegal to impede the flow of highway traffic in the left lane.

The upside to this bill is that, if regularly enforced, it would foster needed change in the D.C.-Baltimore metro area’s driving culture. Local lawmakers are finally recognizing the benefits of promoting Lane Courtesy. “What’s that,” you say? Click on this link to find out what Lane Courtesy is.

Virginia is also considering a similar law, going as far as to explicitly state, “No person shall drive a motor vehicle…at such a slow speed as to impede the normal and reasonable movement of traffic except when reduced speed is necessary for safe operation or in compliance with law.”

Other states already have Lane Courtesy laws on their books and do enforce them. Find out if yours is one of them.

June is Lane Courtesy month. If you’re sick and tired of others impeding traffic for no apparent reason, why not urge the lawmakers from MD and VA to provide stronger support for these bills to ensure that they become law?

Potholes Driving You Crazy?

Pothole

This year, we have been barraged with potholes due to all the extreme winter weather. These potholes not only drive us crazy because they keep our wheel alignments hopelessly out of whack, but there are so many of them that they are almost impossible to avoid!

Some unfortunate souls have even experienced tire blowouts or worse because of these nuisances. You may be able to get the city/county to pay for the damage if you make a claim.

It could take a while to fix them all, so we’ll have to exercise some patience (and maybe just put an extra wheel alignment in the budget for the next couple of months). Feel free to vent about your personal experiences or ones you’ve witnessed in the comments section.

To aid the entire effort, please see some online resources you can use to report those nasty, pesky, awful potholes. When filing your report, please provide the precise location, a picture (if possible), and the severity of the potholes.

Vaya con Dios!

 

D.C. (DDOT)

Dial 202-727-1000 or311 (if dialing from within the city), fill out an online request, or tweet @DDOTDC.

 

Maryland (State Highway Administration)

If the road is a numbered route such as Rte. 355, 117, please contact Maryland State Highway at 301-513-7300. You can also fill out an online request.

 

Montgomery County

See Maryland State Highway Administration above. You can also call the County at 240-777-0311 or 311 if you are calling from within the county. Or fill out an online request.

 

Prince George’s County

See Maryland State Highway Administration above. To report a pothole on a County maintained road, please call 301-499-8520 or fill out an online request.

 

 

Baltimore City (BCDOT)

Use Facebook, Twitter, call 311, or fill out a request form.

 

Baltimore County

Call 410-887-3560, e-mail highways@baltimorecountymd.gov, or fill out a request form.

 

Howard County

Contact the Highways Operations Division at 410-313-2900, by email highways@howardcountymd.gov, or fill out an online request.

 

Anne Arundel County

Call the Pothole Hotline: (410) 222-7045 or your appropriate road district.  Road districts are open from 7:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., Monday through Friday.  You may also report a pothole by email: potholes@aacounty.org

 

Virginia (VDOT)

To report any road maintenance issues, you can call 1-800-FOR-ROAD (1-800-367-7623), call 703-383-8368, or fill out an online request.

 

Arlington County

Call 703-228-6570 or fill out an online request. You can also report a problem on Facebook or Twitter.

 

Fairfax County

If there’s a pothole on a road you know is maintained by the county, then contact 703-877-2800 or see VDOT above.

Do You Warn Other Drivers of Speed Traps?

Speed Trap Sign

Today, another driver flashed their lights to warn me of a speed trap. This really surprised me and got me thinking, “when was the last time another driver warned me of a speed trap?” And, I honestly couldn’t think of the last time!

That’s really bad. What happened?? Just ten years ago, I remember frequently encountering headlight flashing from fellow motorists trying to prevent others from getting speeding tickets. But, the past few years? Zip…nada…nothing!

Perhaps people have become afraid to do this out of fear of retaliation from the police? To a certain extent, I don’t blame them. There have been real cases of good Samaritans who have been actually been arrested for warning other drivers. Yep. Sad, but true.

Many people agree that this practice is not ethical or moral. Especially since, these days, it seems the speed trap’s sole purpose is to raise revenue for states, cities, and local municipalities rather than maintain everyone’s safety.

And now, thanks to a U.S. District Court Judge, it’s not legal, either. This judge ruled that flashing lights to warn other drivers of speedtraps is free speech, protected under the First Amendment.

Hurray for the federal protection of good Samaritans! Now that that’s over…let’s get back to warning each other.

What Would It Take To Improve Your Commute?

December 3, 2012 Leave a comment

In October, Washingtonpost.com’s Dr. Gridlock blog asked a very poignant question that I’ve been itching to answer for awhile now: Money or power what would it take to improve your commute?

Basically, the question is if there were no limits to how much money or power it would take to implement your ideas, what would you do?  I tried to reply on the comment board, but due to technical difficulties, couldn’t post there.  So, I decided to post my response here.  There are several ideas I would implement simultaneously because there is no “one size fits all” solution to this problem — it’s SO BIG! 

– Agree with Teacher26 on this: more strict driver education classes to teach new drivers etiquette as well as school them on the unwritten “rules of the road” (Slower Traffic KEEP RIGHT, Pass on the Left, Proper Merging Techniques, Turn Signals: They’re Not Just for Show, The Perils of Distracted Driving, How Not to Play the Part of the Idiot Driver, etc). 

– Execute a robust PSA campaign to educate already-licensed drivers who continue to practice bad driving habits and not obey the above unwritten “rules of the road”. 

– Extend all metro lines out to what is now considered the greater D.C. metro area and plan/build an additional system of metrorail lines that would allow for suburb-to-suburb commuting to/from dense urban greater D.C. metro areas. 

– Two-tier the entire length of the Baltimore-Washington Parkway/295 between cities and make both tiers three lanes each way. 

– Offer major mass transit routes to adequately connect the greater Washington D.C. and greater Baltimore metro areas together because they have both collided years ago. 

– Eliminate all HOV lanes wherever they exist as they are a waste of space. 

– Implement congestion pricing to control use of high-use roads/highways. 

– Expand high-speed rail so that we can commute to other cities up/down East Coast in two hours or less. 

– Build a tunnel from VA to MD along American Legion Bridge and add two-tier capacity to the bridge. 

– Build another tunnel connecting DC/MD for Metro’s blue line. 

– Build a 95 highway bypass so out-of-area traffic can stay off local highways.

– Incentivize more Fortune 500, 100, 50 employers to any part of P.G. County so that P.G.’s large white collar population no longer HAS to commute to Montgomery County and VA for a decent paycheck. 

– Provide more affordable family-size living options in VA and Montgomery County. 

– Implement more transit-oriented development all over using Metro as the basis.

– Mandate that employers provide more telework options whenever feasible so that there will be less need for commuting at all!  

These are just a few that I couldn’t wait to jot down.  If I gave it some more thought, I’m sure I could come up with many more — all of which are desperately needed, in my opinion, to combat what is now the worst traffic in the country

What ideas do you have?  What would it take to improve your commute?

Sharks — I Mean, Police —Everywhere (on the ICC)! Part II

October 16, 2012 Leave a comment
Commuter Pulled Over on ICC

Another commuter getting a ticket on the ICC

In my last post, I talked about how (in my humble opinion) the MD Transportation Authority Police and Montgomery County Police presence on the Intercounty Connector (ICC) has gotten way out of hand  — sort of like how the overwhelming shark presence must feel to those poor seals shown on the Planet Earth Pole to Pole Episode.  And I talked about how frequently the police pull over commuters on the ICC.  Well, keep reading, I told you I was going somewhere with this notion.  

While I am grateful for the improvement in the reliability of my commuting time, there is still something that prevents me from optimizing it further.  I am talking about being permitted to drive at a speed that is comfortable for me without fear of getting a speeding ticket.  Disclosure: despite what you spend to drive on this highway, you can’t really make any decent time unless you drive way over the 55 mph speed limit. 

They say it takes about 20 minutes to drive from one end of the ICC (Gaithersburg) to another (Laurel) at the current posted speed limit.  That time could be lessened if speed is increased.  The road capacity is sufficient to accommodate this.  To get the value out of the opportunity cost to drive on this road, it seems to me that (if we need to) we should also be able to manipulate our speed to get there faster, as long as we drive safely.  I thought that was the whole point of building it in the first place!

For months, there has been talk that the ICC’s 55 mph speed limit may be raised.  Opponents say that it most likely wouldn’t be raised to more than 60 mph because that is what the road was built to handle.  That won’t work, as it would only shave off a measly 1.5 minutes.  I’ve noticed many more motorists safely travelling at speeds surpassing 70 mph — and making better time in the process. 

Some people prefer to drive slower, and that’s perfectly fine (just stick to the right-hand lanes, please).  If you don’t want to drive over 70 mph, please don’t.  But I think I should be able to if it will help “improve the quality of life” for me as the officials promised that the road is purposed to do.  

Do you think the speed limit on the ICC should be raised?  At which speed would you be comfortable driving if there was no fear of getting a speeding ticket from the police?

Sharks — I Mean, Police — Everywhere (on the ICC)! Part I

October 1, 2012 Leave a comment

Shark Catching and Eating a Seal

Have you seen the Planet Earth Pole to Pole Episode that shows seals risking their lives daily by swimming across a shark-infested body of water off the cost of South Africa just to feed themselves?  Well, everyday I think of those poor seals and feel like I am one of them when I see police cars all up and down the Intercounty Connector (ICC).

“How can you compare your measly commute with those poor seals swimming for their lives,” you say?  Because, the ICC is literally crawling with MD Transportation Authority Police and Montgomery County Police cars everyday.  On both legs of my trip, I drive past someone that they’ve pulled over, everyday.  Most of the time, it’s probably for speeding.  You see, the speed limit on the ICC is only 55 mph.  That’s pretty low, in my humble opinion, for a tolled highway that is supposed to improve commutes across Montgomery County and Prince George’s County.

Officials claimed that this highway would “…increase community mobility… facilitate the movement of goods and people to and from economic centers…provide cost effective transportation infrastructure…”  They also said that, without it, the “ lack of mobility limits job opportunities, interaction between communities, and access to government and community services, and contributes to a decrease in the quality of life.”

Don’t get me wrong — it has done this, from what I understand.  But (please excuse me if I am about to offend anyone for saying this) it is almost as if we (commuters) are literally paying a hefty price just to be constantly monitored and harassed by police.

Feel that the term “harass” is too harsh?  I chose this word because the police presence is so overwhelming most times — more than I’ve ever seen on any highway I’ve ever driven.  Even if you don’t speed, it is alarming and unnerving!

If I didn’t know any better, I would think that the heavy ticketing is Maryland’s way of trying to recoup some of the costs of building the thing — sort of like a speed tax — like what D.C. seems to have finally admitted to.  I am assuming that most people are using it (just as it was intended), as a means to provide daily, reliable, predictable commute times.  But, here’s my thing: I didn’t sign up for or anticipate the overwhelming police presence and daily monitoring.  It’s downright menacing.

Do you feel that the police patrolling on the ICC is out of control?  Or is it on point in your opinion?  Don’t be shy, I wanna know what you think because I’m going somewhere with this.  Please weigh in below!

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