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Posts Tagged ‘bottlenecks’

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).

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!

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?

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.

Today’s Morning Commute: 2 hours and 5 minutes

August 12, 2010 3 comments

Wash Post reader's commute during this morning's storm

When I started doing this blog, I promised myself that I was not just going to vent about my frustrations commuting in the Baltimore-D.C. area.  But today, I really need to vent.  My commute to work this morning took at least twice as long as it normally does — even on the bad days (queue the violin). 

What happened?

It rained this morning — real hard.  The Washington Post reported that a 60-mile storm dumped one and a half inches of rain in about an hour on the Baltimore-D.C. region.  As I looked outside after just getting up this morning, I thought, “Uh-oh, this may not end well.”  And I was so right.  Every major road I traveled on (which is all of them) was back up to East Jiblip (this is not a real place, it’s just a saying).  

Wash Post reader's pic of downed tree

Power was knocked out to about 10,000 residents, and as a result, many traffic lights were dark.  Trees were also knocked down, one of which came down on Metro’s tracks, forcing Metro to use only one track on the Red line.  When I heard that some residents faced more power outages, my heart went out to them.  This is the second time in only a month that D.C. area residents have had to endure power outages due to severe rains.

I was so upset this morning, wondering if there was anything that could have been done to make it go even just a little better.  The only thing that came to mind was if the still working traffic lights were timed better to accommodate traffic flows.  I wrote briefly about this in a previous post.  If this solution were implemented — especially during times like this — I think that a whole lot of congestion could have been avoided this morning.  (trying to hold back a low growl).

Leveraging the Power of Connectivity

July 29, 2010 1 comment

Expand this highway from four to six lanes NOW!

Connectivity — it is what viable transportation is all about.  Commuters between the Baltimore and Washington D.C. metro areas aren’t currently able to go back and forth between the two metro areas efficiently and expeditiously, and it is because the two metro areas are not adequately leveraging the power of connectivity. 

We have very few commuter options between the two metropolises: either drive on I-95 or 295 Baltimore-Washington Parkway or take whichever combination of MARC and Metro trains work best for you.  That is it as far as I know (let me know of others) — and that is a darned shame. 

We need more options, people!  But, here is a little ray of light: recently, measures have been taken to allow SmarTrip users to access MTA’s facilities (buses, subway, and light rail) and MTA smart card holders to use Metrorail and Metrobus.  Isn’t that great progress??  We need more, more, more of this kind of collaboration between and amongst transportation entities! 

I’ve been saying this for a long time – lawmakers, politicians, heads of MD and DC municipal-run transportation: provide more solutions to connect Baltimore to Washington D.C NOW!  

  • Expand 295 Baltimore-Washington Parkway from four lanes to six lanes – I can’t say this enough.  This parkway is congested every day of the week at all times of the day.  It is unbearable during rush hour.  We need more capacity!
  • Create another major highway route that connects the two cities and their suburbs – even if we expand the parkway, eventually we will still need additional roads to handle increasing traffic between the two cities.
  • Expand Metro — We need to get real about the fact that the entire suburban area needs this service for more than just commuting into D.C.  Stop being so conservative when making plans to add stops.  Plan to extend at least out to the White Marsh area.  Don’t shortchange any of the surrounding suburbs!
  • Expand MARC capacity to cover all of Baltimore’s and D.C.’s suburbs and add stops that intersect with Metro for even more connectivity.
  • Develop express bus routes that usher commuters between the two cities and their surrounding areas.  

I understand that there are plans in place to address some of this but, in my humble opinion, the plans currently in place don’t go far enough.  There is so much that needs to be done to improve the connectivity between these two areas.  Everyone stands to benefit from two major metropolises that meet the needs of its inhabitants by being well-connected.  We need to get busy!

Relieve Traffic Congestion Through Increased Use of Sustainable Affordable Public Transportation

This chart helps us evaluate which options will work best.

I can admit, I am very attached to the convenience of being able to hop in my car and go wherever I want, whenever I feel like it.  It’s a necessary evil when you live in the Washington, D.C-Baltimore metro area, and I am thankful that my 13-year old Honda can still take a licking and keep on ticking.  

But, by the same token, it would also be great if I could walk out my door and have several convenient affordable and viable transportation options at my disposal.  This could include being able to walk, take a short and cheap bus/light rail/subway ride, or bike to my destination.  If everything were so conveniently located — or at least so easy to get to—maybe I wouldn’t feel the need to always defer to my car.  There are several benefits to this on all sides: improved health from more exercise, lessening my carbon footprint, saving money, etc. 

One other thing that I would really like to see is more sustainable ways to get around — the apex of which would be “green” transportation options.  These options would satisfy the goal of devising and implementing transport that would be bearable, equitable, and viable on the social, environmental, and economic levels. 

Although the upfront costs and initial sacrifices may be significant (i.e. financial resources, worsened traffic congestion), the long-term benefits would definitely be worth it — especially when you consider that the problem will not simply “fix itself.”  Since demand for public transportation solutions has quickly risen in the D.C. metro area, we need to hastily make up our minds about which solutions to use — and then implement them without further delay.

Commuting Suburb-to-Suburb Via Metro – It Wasn’t in the Master Plan

traffic congestion

Aren't you glad you're not stuck in this right now?

Are you sick of sitting in your vehicle staring at all the cars, buses, trucks, SUVs, and minivans around you while watching the Metro trains go whizzing by?  Me too.  Traffic congestion has gotten completely out of hand, and others outside the area have noticed.  Washington, D.C. has been ranked as the third-worst traffic in the country.  It is at these times that I wonder if other commuting alternatives would be better than sticking it out in traffic everyday.  

One noted way to relieve traffic congestion is through increasing use of public transportation.  But the problem in the Washington D.C. Baltimore metro area is that, depending on where you work, using public transportation is not always expedient.

I would seriously consider taking Metro to my current place of business but, to be honest, it’s just not that convenient for me — even with the subsidy my job offers.  Fact is, buses are totally out of the question because it would probably take three times longer than a car ride — in traffic.  No express buses to my destination exist.  And my job is over a mile away from the nearest Metro station — not appealing for a woman who wears heels everyday. 

But even if I decided to wear walking shoes instead, public transportation is still not a convenient solution for me.  This is because Metro was originally designed for suburban MD/VA commuting into D.C., not for suburban MD/VA commuting to other parts of suburban MD/VA.  In other words, in order for me to get to my job in Rockville, I would need to drive through traffic to get to the nearest Metro station, pay to park, ride into downtown D.C., and then ride back out into the suburbs.  To get to my jobsite, I would then need to either take a bus or walk more than a mile…not appealing, right? 

 The solution to this problem would be Metro’s purple line.  But because of major obstacles to getting the project off the ground, we do not yet know of a completion date for this light rail alternative that would connect the Orange, Green, and Red lines.

I’m all for the Purple line being part of the solution if it provides a viable alternative to sitting in traffic!  Local lawmakers really need to step up the pressure to get this project done.  If you’d like to make it your personal mantra, you can get involved by sending an email by July 23 with “yes, I support the Purple Line” in the subject line to cscott@purplelinenow.com.

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