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!

Know a Bad Driver? Are You One? Casting for a Web Series

I was poking around on another website where you can share your frustration with commuting and driving, platewire.com, and found this message in the comment section from “badmark” posted on July 10. 

Please let me know if you nominate someone!

Do you or someone you know suffer from road rage?  Does your worst side come out when you hit the road?  Are friends and family afraid to drive with you?  Do you have an extreme phobia of roundabouts and 4-way stop signs?

If this describes you, or someone you know, we want them NOW!  Car and Driver Magazine is seeking HORRIBLE DRIVERS with BIG PERSONALITIES for a web series.  Series will be shot in the New York Tri-State Area in August/September.  We are seeking them out, coaching them with a professional driving instructor, giving them a final exam and giving them a chance to regain their driving cred.

Interested?  Or would like to nominate someone?  Please email baddrivercasting@gmail.com with “Bad Driver” in the subject line with the following info:

Your name:
Name of Bad Driver you are nominating:
Ages:
Contact Number:
Location:
Please include photo of yourself and the person you are nominating.
Why are you (or person you’re recommending) the Worst Driver Ever?

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 Examines Transportation Hot Topics Among Area Voters

Poll Measures Public Opinion on New Potomac River Bridge Construction, Higher Gas Taxes, and Raising Area Tolls

Earlier this month, WTOP Radio 103.5 FM announced the results of its first WTOP Beltway Poll of 2012, conducted by Heart and Mind Strategies, measuring public opinion on a number of “hot topic” transportation issues across the Washington metropolitan area.

The poll reveals strong support of new Potomac River bridge construction, support of funding for area transportation projects, and strong opposition to higher gas taxes.  This comes in the wake of intense opposition to Governor O’Malley’s proposed gas tax hikes

The WTOP Beltway Poll includes the following findings on transportation issues across the Washington metropolitan area:

•59% of residents across the region believe now is the time to increase funding for transportation projects to help promote job growth and regional benefits from improved transportation.
•Two-thirds of area residents (67%) across the region support the construction of a new bridge across the Potomac River to help ease area traffic congestion.
• Support for new bridge construction is strongest among Maryland residents at 69% compared to 65% in Virginia and 58% of those polled in The District.
•Despite the support for increased transportation funding, 78% of those polled oppose higher gas taxes.
•The question of increasing area tolls divided public opinion with 46% in favor and 52% opposed.

“This in-depth look at hotly contested transportation issues is the first of our 2012 series of WTOP Beltway polls. WTOP conducts the polling through our partnership with the respected Heart and Mind Strategies to compare and contrast the views of voters in Virginia, Maryland and DC,” said Mitch Miller, News Director, WTOP Radio. “We look forward to sharing in-depth analysis on a variety of important issues on WTOP Radio and WTOP.com.”

The WTOP Beltway Poll polled 551 participants in the WTOP listening area from February 20 – 23, 2012. The comprehensive findings of the WTOP Beltway Poll can be found online at www.WTOP.com.

The ICC is FINALLY Here!

November 18, 2011 Leave a comment

Well, technically, the ICC has been open since February of this year.  And I still haven’t driven it yet.  Why?  Because the limited portion that was open (Contract A – from I-270/370 to Georgia Ave) was absolutely of no good use to me. 

I – like so many others – have been waiting for Contracts B and C (from Georgia Ave to I-95) to open.  These are the ones that would make a palatable difference in my daily commute. 

As of Tuesday November 22, Contracts B and C are set to open.  Hallelujah!  The last section, Contracts D and E, are scheduled to continue construction in spring 2012.  Their opening will be determined at a later time.

While I am not at all excited to have to pay for a decent commute, I am very excited that my daily commute could be cut roughly in half from now on.  Here’s to less money in my wallet in exchange for more time back in my day!

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.

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