Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Eagle-Tribune -- June 29, 2005

I wrote this that appeared in today's Eagle-Tribune newspaper:

There are ways to ease gridlock

I have been commuting to and from Boston and Cambridge for 18 years. I have been fortunate that most of those years have been outside of a typical 9-to-5 schedule because my 32-mile trip would easily take more than an hour using Interstates 495 and 93 (and that doesn't count the extra 15 to 30 minutes it takes for the 2.5 miles between my office and the highway).

Highway delays can be attributed to many factors, not the least of which are accidents and the sheer volume during peak periods. For example, many people may be surprised at how a modestly-sized hill can help to choke rush-hour traffic. While there isn't anything that can be done to flatten hills, drivers can help each other by maintaining constant speeds on the inclines. If everyone used cruise control and kept an even steady speed, you wouldn't see other people jamming on their brakes because someone ahead of them is losing speed while going uphill (and let's not forget the better gas mileage you get when you maintain steady speeds).

Drivers can also help each other by staying out of each other's way. If you want to go 40 mph on a major highway, do not stay in the left lanes. Just as excessive speed kills, so can excessive slowness. I can't begin to tell you how many accidents and near-misses I have seen when someone was going too slowly in the left lane, causing everyone else to suddenly swerve right to avoid hitting them. I am not saying that everyone needs to go fast, I am simply saying that we all need to respect each other and use a lane that suits our speeds.

Unfortunately, even if everyone were to cooperate with each other in a perfect world, there are still many more factors that are beyond our own control. Roads designed with lane drops tend to create bottlenecks — and if the lane drop occurs in conjunction with a hill, such as the Leverett Connector/Storrow Drive exit off of I-93 southbound in Boston, you're basically doomed to be delayed. You're also doomed at many of the major interchanges where there is a lack of accelerate/decelerate and merge lanes like there are in other parts of the country.

I've traveled to almost every major city in our country and have spent considerable amounts of time in many of them (often up to several months at a time in some cities). I've seen solutions used elsewhere that could help our traffic troubles here. I've seen the median strips between highway lanes used for express rail service (with only a limited number of stops along the way so they would be quicker than standard commuter rail service). I have also seen median strips used for reversible express/toll travel lanes (again with only a limited number of entrance/exit points), similar to the reversible lane known as "the zipper lane" between Boston and Braintree. Since the governments of Massachusetts and New Hampshire already own or control the median strips and the land between the lanes, perhaps they can look into using them for similar solutions. Yes, they would require money to be spent for construction, but they can pay for themselves over time. I know I would not mind dropping a buck into a basket if it is going to get me in or out of Boston more quickly.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

More people SHOULD use cruisecontrol!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!