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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?

If Drivers Have to Obey Traffic Signs, So Do Pedestrians!

Pedestrians Disobeying No Walk Sign

Something I’ve noticed lately is that many pedestrians don’t obey traffic signs.  I know you’re probably like, “wow, and drivers typically don’t obey them, either!”  But no, seriously, I didn’t really realize how bad pedestrians were with this until recently. 

As children, we were always taught in schools and by parents to obey traffic signals.  You were not to walk into the street without looking both ways first, and you were not to enter a crosswalk until the traffic sign permitted you to.  

But pedestrians these days seem to follow a different creed.  At the intersection of Rockville Pike and Marinelli Road(across from the White Flint Metro station), the pedestrians are irreverent and oblivious to the traffic signs.  Daily, I am prevented from making my right-hand turn onto Rockville Pike when it is my turn because pedestrians cross the road at inappropriate times.  

It almost begs the question: do pedestrians think that traffic signals only apply to drivers?  Do pedestrians feel that drivers should always give them the right of way, regardless of what the signal says?  

Rules of the Road by Dona Sauerburger, provides a simple explanation of the law that pedestrians (and drivers) need to follow in the D.C. metro area.  Basically, it says that pedestrians crossing an intersection on a crosswalk with traffic controls need to yield to drivers when the “don’t walk” or “upraised hand” sign is displayed.  

I don’t have a problem yielding to pedestrians when it’s their turn to cross the road.  But I’m just saying…when it’s my turn to go, can I get some reciprocity?  Fellow drivers/commuters: do you experience this while driving?  Please share your experiences!

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.

Governor Martin O’Malley Walks the Talk of Easing Traffic Congestion and Bringing Jobs to Underserved Areas

August 9, 2010 1 comment

 

Transit oriented development in Ballston Commons, Virginia

Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) is what Governor Martin O’Malley is embracing by moving the Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) into Prince George’s County.   Transit oriented development is defined as an area with residential and/or commercial mixed-use buildings that are strategically anchored to a source of public transit, thereby maximizing its access and use. 

In an unprecedented move by O’Malley, hundreds of jobs could potentially now be held by those who live in P.G. County — something that has been long overdue.  This move is the result of O’Malley’s Smart, Green, and Growing initiative, a key component from his 2007 Executive Order to focus development around Maryland’s transit facilities.  O’Malley has invested millions in infrastructure and mass transportation, and this newest development would be the culmination of all these initiatives.

P.G. County is the most wealthy county in the U.S. that has a mostly black population.  Many residents are highly-educated and are skilled at working white collar jobs.  Yet, for decades, this county has been underserved by businesses (small and large) that could supply the kind of high-paying white collar jobs these residents are accustomed to.  P.G. County provides amenities that other surrounding counties can’t: cheaper land and commercial space, proximity to D.C., and acres of underutilized available commercial space.  This ongoing lack of business development has not been because of a lack of demand from P.G. residents.  Many P.G. County residents would absolutely jump at the chance to finally be gainfully employed in the county they live in – a luxury that Northern Virginia and Montgomery County residents have enjoyed for decades. 

This is just the start of what is to come.  Smart growth is the wave of the future, and it is the antidote to urban sprawl.  The benefits for P.G. County residents will be accumulative.  As more agencies and businesses relocate near other transportation hubs in the county, residents will reap shorter commutes, housing closer to their jobs, less pollution from traffic, less wear/tear on their cars, better health, and a better quality of life that comes with more sustainable living.

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