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Forbes Says DMV Has Country’s 2nd Worst Traffic Congestion

I knew it wasn’t just me and here’s the proof: the DMV’s traffic congestion has been ranked 2nd worst in the country, according to Forbes.com.  And this year, we’re ranked  79th worst in the world, according to mapping and travel service TomTom.  Drivers in the DMV waste about 75 hours a year in traffic. At the height of rush hour, it takes us almost double the time to get anywhere!

Who is most affected?

Everybody!  It doesn’t just affect commuters.  Time wasted in traffic indirectly affects small/mid-sized businesses, large corporations, families, the federal government, local municipalities, and causes undue stress on everyone involved.

What can we do to resolve this?

Many solutions are needed, amongst those are strategically placed signage, increasing effectiveness of public transportation, better connectivity of major (and minor) routes, decreasing bottleneck areas that cause backups, and transit-oriented development in underserved areas.

There is no one solution.  Lots of solutions need to be deployed simultaneously to make a real difference.  It’s time for D.C., Maryland, and Virginia’s politicians to make decreasing traffic congestion a real priority – to partner with each other to decide on what is feasible, raise the money, and execute the plan (in a decent amount of time).

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?

Traffic Congestion Problem Has Reached the Boiling Point

Pot of Boiling Water from SerVE Photography

Pot of Boiling Water

Traffic congestion is costing us more than just time spent idling in traffic.  According to a report released by TRIP, Maryland’s roads are in desperate need of repair due to congestion delays and increasing traffic volume.  Another cost of traffic congestion is road rage has been on a steady incline in recent years.

And there are other contributing factors that make the problem worse, such as Federal policies that keep us stuck in traffic, by incorrectly assessing the true causes of traffic congestion instead of earnestly dedicating the proper time and energy it will take to really understand the underlying problems.  Not to mention the paradoxical prevailing attitude in the D.C. area that “someone should do something about the problem” but no one wants to pay for congestion relief

According to Driven Apart: How sprawl is lengthening our commutes and why misleading mobility measures are making things worse, a report by CEOs for Cities and the Rockefeller Foundation, urban sprawl is another contributing factor of why we spend so much time in traffic.  This report surmises that the length and grueling nature of our commutes is more a function of the way we build our cities versus how we have built our roads.  This is a very interesting concept, indeed.

If we are ever going to solve this problem, there are several things we need to do: (1) we really need to stop wasting taxpayer money by funding/supporting studies that don’t assess the true causes of traffic congestion, (2) we also need to get real about the opportunity cost of fixing or at least lessening the effects of traffic congestion, (3) we need to concentrate support behind those projects that are assessing actual causes and effective solutions, and (4) we need to mobilize our local, state, and federal governments to develop sensible transportation policies (and adequate, responsible funding) backing those efforts. 

This problem is costing us too much time out of our lives (literally), it is harming our health (i.e. high blood pressure, et al, due to road rage and general frustration), and it is costing us our overall sense of well-being — those tangible things that make life more tolerable, pleasurable, worth living — like time spent with spouses, kids, friends, and hobbies. 

We need to stop ignoring the problem, stop being complacent about the problem, and actually do something about it.  How do you view this issue?  Are you ready and willing to finally take action?

WTOP Beltway Poll Reveals One Hour Plus Commutes for Four in Ten Washingtonians

November 1, 2011 4 comments

Poll Shows DC Area Residents Face L-o-o-o-o-ong Daily Commutes Impacting Productivity, Health Issues & Quality Time for Area Families

Last week, WTOP Radio 103.5 FM announced the results of its most recent WTOP Beltway Poll examining local travel and traffic congestion issues for Washington metropolitan area commuters. The WTOP Beltway Poll, conducted by Heart and Mind Strategies, surveyed area residents across the Washington metropolitan region to measure average daily commuting times and the impact that growing commutes have on worker productivity levels, health and wellness issues, and quality time for area families to spend together.

The WTOP Beltway Poll, conducted by Heart and Mind Strategies, showed that 52 percent of those polled say that DC area traffic congestion is much worse than other major metropolitan areas. Of those polled, 40 percent blame population density as the main cause of traffic congestion, 33 percent blame insufficient infrastructure, and 12 percent blame existing road construction delays.

The WTOP Beltway Poll, conducted by Heart and Mind Strategies, includes these additional findings related to daily commute times for DC area residents:

  • Average round trip miles each day:
    • 32% 1-10 miles
    • 34% 11-30 miles
    • 15% 31-50 miles
    • 17% 51+ miles
  • Average round trip length of time traveling each day:
    • 32% 1-30 minutes
    • 29% 31 minutes -1 hour
    •  27% 1-2 hours
    • 11% more than 2 hours

WTOP will examine the poll findings more closely during upcoming stories on WTOP and WTOP.com. The WTOP Beltway Poll, conducted by Heart and Mind Strategies, was conducted by phone among 641 adults 18 and older in the WTOP listening area from October 10 -13, 2011. The comprehensive findings of the WTOP Beltway Poll, conducted by Heart and Mind Strategies, can be found online at www.WTOP.com. The margin of error for a sample this size is +/- 3.87 at 95 percent confidence.

The ICC: the Most Technologically Advanced Toll Highway in the U.S.

February 22, 2011 3 comments

The Intercounty Connector (ICC) will be unique in that it is the only all-electronic toll road in the U.S that can collect tolls at highway speed.  That’s right — there are absolutely no toll booths to collect money, so you don’t have to slow down to pay.  The ICC will use the E-ZPass system, an electronic toll collection system.  Many other U.S. toll roads already use E-ZPass nationwide, but drivers on those roads still have to slow down to about ten miles per hour or less for their E-ZPass to be read properly.

Can you imagine not dealing with the hassle of having long waits in traffic congestion to enter a toll highway?  There is another all-electronic toll road collection system currently in place in western Canada, also the first of its kind. 

How is electronic toll collection possible?

This high tech solution entails antennas “reading” the vehicle-mounted E-ZPass transponders and deducting the cost of the trip from the driver’s prepaid account.  If the vehicle doesn’t have a transponder, cameras will take pictures of the vehicle’s license plate and the owner will receive a “Notice of Toll Due” in the mail along with a $3 surcharge.

The first stretch (7.2 miles) of the ICC will now open at 6AM Wednesday February 23.  Until March 7, no tolls or surcharges will be collected.  The remaining two stretches will open later this year and by spring of next year.

New E-ZPass offices are now open in Gaithersburg and Beltsville Maryland (MVA) for those who want to sign up.  Toll prices have also been set, and they will vary depending on what time of day you pass through.  

A word to the wise: you might want to stick to the speed limit as the E-ZPass antenna reads your transponder.  If you zoom past at a higher speed than the posted speed limit, you could end up with a nasty speeding ticket.  Happy driving!

Annoying Bumper Stickers and Window Tchotchkes Making Other Drivers Aggressive Towards You?

December 7, 2010 Leave a comment

Offensive bumper sticker

Thinking about driver aggression, there is something I’ve been really wondering about recently.  Do other people’s bumper stickers, window tchotchkes, and rear mirror hangers make other drivers act aggressively towards each other?  I think it’s a really fair question, given all the factions in modern society. Think about that political bumper sticker on the back of your car that screams your chosen political affiliation.  Think of that religious trinket that you have dangling from your rear view mirror that shouts your devout religiosity (or lack thereof).  Think of that all those stuffed thingamajigs that you’ve got sitting in your rear window that might be objectionable to others.  Think of that rear license plate frame/surround that practically cheers for the undergraduate/graduate school you went to.  

These things can act as conduits of information about the driver that — I submit — may or may not make you a target for aggression by other drivers.  Everybody has a favorite — and a “not-so-favorite.”  At the very least, everybody has an opinion/generalization of people who make any of these associations.  You could be making enemies on the road and not even realize it! 

The reason why I brought this up is not long ago, I was wondering about who I could be personally offending with the stuff I’ve got on/inside my car.  Not many drivers have probably even given this kind of thing much thought when choosing their bumper stickers, et al.  But I thought I’d bring it to your attention for your feedback and thoughts.  Just one of those things that make you go, “hmmmmm.”

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.

Merging Properly onto Our Highways: Is it a Lost Art?

September 22, 2010 1 comment

Does this driving behavior make you feel like this?

Today, as I was returning back to the office from my lunch break, I encountered a very common problem — a female driver who didn’t know how to properly merge onto the highway.  I got so angry at her apparent lack of driving skills, I didn’t know what to do!  

Here’s what she did — and this is soooo classic — instead of yielding to the driver getting off the highway (me), she decides to speed up, pass me on the right (on a short exit ramp!) and merge onto the highway ahead of me, despite the fact that I was going a little too fast for that, both of us are running out of exit ramp (!), and there was a large slowish moving vehicle in front of me.  What she should have done was to yield and then merge in behind me when it was safe to do so. 

This is really a problem that I’m noticing more and more.  And, quite frankly, it’s got me worried for my safety.  For some reason, many people do not seem to realize that: 

  • exiting vehicles have the right of way by law
  • entering vehicles are supposed to YIELD to exiting vehicles
  • entering vehicles are not to attempt to pass vehicles on the right as exiting vehicles are trying to complete their exit

Roileen Miller of Miller Driving School gave some useful merging pointers on the Road Warrior blog, including that drivers should use their signals and that entering vehicles should check their blindspots for exiting vehicles and merge accordingly.

Here is what I’ve noticed: when I wait an extra second before signaling my intent to exit, most drivers will assume I am continuing on the highway, yield, and just merge into traffic behind me.  However, if I signal before that, there is confusion because other drivers may not yield to me otherwise.  To mitigate this problem, I try to signal at a precise time that safely alerts others I am about to exit, just before I am about to pass the merging vehicle while they are still on the exit ramp.  

Okay, I know what you’re thinking.  She probably passed you like that because you drive like a grandma!  Au contraire!  Those who have ridden with me will tell you I most certainly do not drive like a grandma. 

Unfortunately, many drivers these days tend to do exactly what that lady did to me today — although most of them do not go to such great lengths as to actually attempt to pass me on the right before merging!      

What do you think about this behavior?  Do you drive just like that lady?  Or does this kind of unsafe, illegal driving tick you off, too?  Tell me, and please feel free to share this blog post/site with others!

The Power of Suggestion: Traffic Signs Could Relieve Gridlock; Alter Driving Behavior

August 27, 2010 3 comments

 

Tell me...do you think this would work?

What if we could help ease traffic congestion by merely installing traffic signs?  Nothing fancy here.  These signs would simply suggest a desired driver behavior to achieve a desired outcome: moving traffic along in a more expeditious manner. 

Highways all over the country already have these.  Imagine my awe as I rode past, staring at them with my mouth wide open as I had an “ah-ha moment.”  There was a sign that blatantly said: “Steep Upgrade, Maintain Speed.”  Wow, what an idea!  A sign that strongly suggests that drivers hit the gas pedal to maintain speed because — pay attention now, this is deep — we are now driving on a steep incline on a highway, and in order to not slow the people down behind us, we need to STEP ON IT.  What a novel idea!  Why haven’t the transportation authorities in MD, VA, and D.C. metro area caught onto this??  

 

We could use this one, too!

Study explained traffic jams

Years ago, I remember watching a news story about a traffic study that explained why traffic jams and slowdowns occur on our highways.  Among their conclusions were: (1) rubbernecking to see the source of a police stop; (2) rubbernecking due to a disabled car or accident; (3) sheer volume; (4) curvy highways; (5) hilly highways (the steeper the grade, the slower traffic gets); (6) construction and or repair.

We have many highways that are curved and are downright hilly in this area.  I understand slowing down a little for curves in bad weather, but not to the degree that most people do.  I’m quite sure they were built to accommodate highway speeds (at least during fair weather).  But, for some reason, people don’t compensate for hills by simply accelerating.  Guess they just feel that they don’t need to or are not paying enough attention to notice that their car is slowing down.  I wouldn’t want to be a passenger in that car! 

Wake up, people!

I believe that this problem could be helped just by strategically installing the right signage.  Traffic merging onto I-95 North is always slow because there are two steep upgrades before you even get to Exit 33 Rt. 193.  After this exit, traffic usually speeds up exponentially (with some exceptions, of course).  I am convinced that merely suggesting that people accelerate to maintain their speed would go a long way to relieve congestion caused by hills.  It’s worth a try!  

Tell me…what do you think of this solution?  Don’t be shy — leave a comment.

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