Thursday, October 15, 2009

We’re Number 2! We’re Number 2!

The Washington DC region has the second-worst traffic congestion in the country. C’mon! We’re not trying hard enough! Don’t we want to be #1?!

My ridiculously long commute takes fifty minutes when there is no traffic. This morning it took me twice that long to get to work. My top speed for more than half the ride was 15 miles per hour, shown below in this blurry cell phone picture.



If you look hard, you’ll see that Honda thinks this car could cruise at 160. I think it would go airborne at that speed, but I can verify that it is a solid ride at 90. At this morning’s pace, my commute would have been faster on a bicycle.

Boomers, our parents are partly to blame for this mess. Back in their day, as late as the 1950s, busses, trolleys and trains were the commuter norm in urban areas. Families often had only one car, the ‘family car,’ and sometimes it sat idle for much of the week because no one needed it.

Auto manufacturers did an effective job lobbying national, state and local governments to spend more money on roads than on mass transit. Their advertising efforts helped create demand for cars to enhance the spirit of American individualism and prosperity that took hold after World War II. These factors, combined with ‘white flight’ to the suburbs during the racial tension years that followed, led to what we have now: nearly every person of driving age seems to have their own car … and we drive everywhere we go, usually alone in our car. This is the norm even in areas like DC, where there is good mass transit and highly-advertised car-pooling opportunities.



So on rainy days like today, most drivers slow down, others drive recklessly, causing more accidents than usual, and the congestion gets worse.

And I leave home at 7:20 to get to a 9:00 am work meeting at 9:01, with no time to stop for my morning coffee.

How did I get talked into living this far from work?

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