Back to my topic of the week:
Chimpanzees. Maybe they’re the ones behind the wheel, causing all this trouble on the road. I just like knowing I’m not the only one with traffic issues – sharing the suffering with Madame Meow and Kate at Daily Tragedies today.
The Salary Reporter has a nice roundup on that transportation study. I’ve already mentioned that L.A. drivers were the “winners” of the “most time spent stuck in traffic” prize, but Washington DC (one more good reason for my DC-dwelling son not to have a car – he goes Metro), San Francisco, and Atlanta weren’t far behind, and New York and Chicago are way up there in the traffic-congestion rankings too. (Seattle, on the other hand, has improved dramatically since 1999, dropping from 2nd to 19th in the rankings. Since this game works like golf and low scores are better, go Seattle!)
To add insult to injury, unlike several of these other cities, Los Angeles-area drivers don’t even have bad weather as an excuse most of the time. You don’t want to think about what it’s like around here when it rains. One good thing about having so many residents who have moved here from somewhere else is that at least some of the people on the road have experience driving in poor conditions. Of course, at the same time, we’re (I am part of this problem) adding to the sheer numbers of cars on the road, and we don’t know our way around like the natives do, so maybe it’s a tradeoff.
The report, appropriately, recognizes that this problem needs to be attacked from various directions:
The problem has grown too rapidly and is too complex for only one technology or service to be “the solution” in most regions. The increasing trends also indicate the urgency of the improvement need. Major improvements can take 10 to 15 years and smaller efforts may not satisfy all the needs… The solutions will be different depending on the state or city where they are implemented. There will also be a different mix of solutions in various parts of town depending on the type of development, the level of activity and policy or geographic constraints in particular sub-regions, neighborhoods and activity centers.
There are solutions that involve employers and travelers changing the time they travel. Flexible work hours allow employees to choose work schedules that meet family needs and the needs of their jobs. Using the phone, computer and internet to work from home for a few hours, or a few days each month also moves trips to off-peak hours while providing productivity benefits and lower turnover to employers and travel time benefits, stress reduction and job satisfaction improvements to employees.
But, as we started the discussion of problems with “you” as the problem, so there are roles for “you” in the solution. Trying a carpool, vanpool or public transportation, flexible work hours, telecommuting and the simple act of checking the travel information websites before starting a trip are immediate actions that may improve your travel.
Emphasis mine on that last item. If you live in an area of any size at all, you’ve got local radio stations delivering traffic reports during the morning and evening commute hours – and after years of not acknowledging that AM radio even exists, I have to admit that the news/talk stations tend to give more thorough and reliable traffic reports. Learn their schedules and just click on over at intervals to hear what’s happening; you can switch back to your regularly scheduled programming right afterward. Those same radio stations often offer online traffic updates too, as do newspaper and TV websites. (Sorry for the LA-centric links, but they’re just examples.) I’m also a regular user of Traffic.com, which – at no charge – allows you to set up and save your regular travel routes, and will e-mail and/or call your cell phone with alerts at times you specify. Also, learn your alternate-route options, including surface streets – they may not actually take all that much longer when the freeway is at a standstill, but be aware of the safety of the neighborhoods. It’s taken me a while, but I now know how to between work and home without getting on any of the four freeways that make up my normal route, should it be necessary. Information can at least lessen the frustration, I find, although it won’t take it away.
The flexible-hours option is actually one of my favorite ways to address this, and not just from a traffic standpoint – it’s got other benefits too, from a “juggler’s” perspective, but there’s always the unpredictable (which is why they’re called “accidents.”) I haven’t met anyone who telecommutes on a regular basis, but I’d be very open to it if my job made it feasible, and right now it doesn’t. And carpools sound good in theory, but for most people I know, they’re just not very functional for the work/home commute – coworkers may not live near each other, or schedules don’t dovetail – although they can be a good choice for a group traveling to a meeting or special event together, or for shuttling the kids. Public transportation is great if your city is set up for it, but mine’s not.
Under the current conditions, unlike Gary Numan, here in my car I do not feel safest of all. Especially if the chimpanzees are driving.