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Posts Tagged ‘transportation’

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).

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!

My Reaction to Woman Receiving Ticket on I-95/Laurel for Driving 63 mph in 65 mph Zone‏

March 28, 2013 2 comments

Readers, I’m going to share with you a message that I sent to AAA spokesperson John Townsend on March 20 in reaction to his comments about a shocking ticket-issuing.  Some of you may agree, some may disagree.  But I need to put this out there because sentiments are high on both sides, and I want to know what you think.  Let’s continue this dialog.  Please see below:

Greetings!  I politely disagree with your comments in this news story that this ticket is sending the wrong message to the public. 
 
I think it’s sending exactly THE RIGHT message — one that we should have been sending for a very long time now — that it is completely unacceptable to impede traffic in the left lane. 
 
Too much emphasis is on the fact that the lady was adhering to the speed limit and shouldn’t have been given a ticket.  I’ll give that she was not exceeding the speed limit (I will come back to this in a minute).  But, she was also impeding the flow of traffic, which is a much worse offense.  The main reason is that it incites road rage — guaranteed every time.  Drivers get very aggressive and start to jockey for position to go around her, which has the potential to cause many horrible/fatal accidents.  Her actions were disturbing to what would ordinarily be a calm driving environment.  Her actions created a hostile atmosphere that put everybody around in real danger.  THIS KIND OF RECKLESS DRIVING IS THE REAL CAUSE OF TRAFFIC ACCIDENTS, NOT NECESSARILY DRIVING FASTER.  Realizing this, AAA should support and speak out in defense of driving habits that are safe, not incitable.
 
Coming back to the point I was making earlier, the real problem is that we have traffic laws that are totally contradictory in this country.  On one hand, we have laws that permit and encourage officers to issue tickets for “speeding” because “speeding” has been demonized and oversimplified as “dangerous driving.”  To support this, people drive the speed limit in all lanes and feel justified in doing so — after all, they are just obeying the law.  On the other hand, we have always been taught that the left lane(s) should be preserved for those who are passing all traffic on the right.  In order to obey this law, you will have to surpass the speed limit.  Further, we also have laws that permit officers to issue tickets when drivers are impeding the flow of traffic.  These contradictions make the whole ding dang proposition flawed!  Who should be considered right under any of these circumstances??? 
 
To drive on certain European highways, drivers are required to take more classes to handle their cars SAFELY.  They are trained to be better drivers, not simply penalized for driving faster.  They support the mantra that highways were built to move people/goods in the most expedient way possible, so the unhindered flow is maintained by always urging slower traffic to keep to the right, regardless of speed.  Consequently, there really is no speed limit.  But they do have an advisory speed limit. European authorities are also more enlightened in that they realize the term “reckless driving” should be assigned to someone who is carelessly driving, not merely driving faster.  You can adhere to lower speed limits and still kill/harm people due to inexperience and driving in ways that disregard the safety of all who are around!  Hello, cellphones!
 
By saying this, however, please note I am not saying that higher speeds are not a contributing factor to worse accidents.  I am also not saying that there should be no speed limits on U.S. highways.  I am simply saying that U.S. authorities are causing major problems because they are contradicting themselves, oversimpifying the issue, and encouraging worsened traffic congestion by en/forcing everybody to drive slower because of lower highway speed limits.  The focus on speed has been all wrong for too long!  And the problem has gotten worse as populations have increased!
 
Rather than saying this ticket issuing sends the wrong message, how about looking at this using the Europeans’ model, which would argue that this woman’s actions were reckless and inconsiderate to all the other drivers on the road.  And, if she wanted to drive slower to feel safer, she should just keep to the right.  The solution to this problem is higher quality, continued driver training and enforcing the law that “slower traffic keep right” on our highways instead of issuing tickets to and demonizing those who are just trying to expediently get from Point A to Point B. 
 
By the way, I am a Premium AAA member, I maintain a blog that discusses these and similar issues, and I passionately advocate for expedient travel that gets everyone from Point A to Point B SAFELY
 
Thanks!
 
Nneka Jenkins (trafficfrustrationblog.com)

As of the writing of this blogpost, Mr. Townsend has not responded to this letter. 

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!

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?

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