Greater Greater Washington

Weekend links: Calm traffic to improve your life


Photo by Open Up My Head on Flickr.
Slow down to speed up: On a mountain stretch of I-70, Colorado discovered they can move cars faster if, paradoxically, they force them to move slower. (Slate)

Calm circles for Arlington?: Arlington will vote today on 3 roundabouts for traffic calming. One opposed resident says drivers shouldn't be "punished" for 5% of speeders, though county data show it's actually 48% who speed. (ARLnow)

Elevator problems plague NYC: New York's subway suffers its own escaltor and elevator problems, too. In fact, the elevator at Flushing Avenue is broken 91% of the time. (NYT)

Bike the Big Easy: Since Katrina, New Orleans has enjoyed an increase in cycling. Many reconstructed roads now include bike lanes and the city's flatness and close neighborhoods make the geography perfect for cycling. (BusinessWeek)

Party... like it's 1776: Tomorrow's dedication of the MLK Memorial will attract big name stars. (Post) ... Today, the mayor and residents are marching to the memorial to highlight how DC residents are denied the democracy all other Americans enjoy. (WTOP)

MoCo requires a bike sharing station: The county's planning board approved a Silver Spring project, provided the developer includes a bike-sharing station. (Gazette) ... CaBi is the obvious choice, but there are no other CaBi stations to ride to in Silver Spring.

Reconsider your commute: Driving 38 miles to and from work each day may not be "too bad" at first glance, but a commuting couple will end up spending $125,000 over ten years for the "privilege" of doing so. (Lifehacker)

Gov. Brown makes streets more dangerous: California's governor vetoed a bill requiring drivings to pass cyclists either with 3 feet of space, or closer if they're moving very slowly. His logic for the veto makes little sense. (Streetsblog)

And...: Transportation Alternatives updated CrashStat, an interactive map of pedestrian, driver, and cyclist collisions in New York. (Streetsblog) ... Arlington may raise taxi fares in exchange for requiring credit card readers. (Post) ... SimCity and Herman Cain share something in common when it comes to taxes. (Huffington Post)

Have a tip or paradox for the links? Submit it here.
Eric Fidler has lived in DC and suburban Maryland his entire life. He likes long walks along the Potomac and considers the L'Enfant Plan an elegant work of art. He also blogs at Left for LeDroit, LeDroit Park's (only) blog of record. 

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Today, the mayor and residents are marching to the memorial to highlight how DC residents are denied the democracy all other Americans enjoy.

Yeah, cuz MLK was all about DC voting rights.
Yet another DC PR FAIL.

by Jasper on Oct 15, 2011 1:33 pm • linkreport

On a mountain stretch of I-70, Colorado discovered they can move cars faster if, paradoxically, they force them to move slower.

In the Netherlands, virtually all busy highways have varying speed limits to regulate traffic. For instance, if a traffic jam is building up, miles before that traffic jam, traffic gets slowed down, so that traffic does not come to a complete stand still. In case of accidents, it also indicated what lanes are closed. And, at intersections, they give traffic info.

Matrixborden
Matrixborden

There are signs like this all over Europe.

It took a while for the public to figure out that it actually helps preventing a traffic jam when traffic before the jam gets slowed down. Somehow, people want nothing more than to speed to a traffic jam...

You have to enforce the speed limit mercilessly though.

Does anybody know why they stopped with the variable speed limits on between the Springfield interchange and Alexandria?

I've always been surprised to see less information signs over American highways.

Belgium:

Matrixborden

Germany:
Matrixborden

UK:
Matrixborden
Matrixborden

by Jasper on Oct 15, 2011 2:38 pm • linkreport

Driving 38 miles to and from work each day may not be "too bad" at first glance, but a commuting couple will end up spending $125,000 over ten years for the "privilege" of doing so.

This assumes that you can afford to move. And that those two jobs stay in the same place for 10 years. Can I get some 'aye' from the people here that have held a job for 10 years in the same spot, while their partner did the same? I've moved 4 times in the last 10 years...

by Jasper on Oct 15, 2011 2:41 pm • linkreport

Jasper MLK actually did know about our lack of voting rights, spoke and held at least one rally for district residents voting rights so it actually is quite appropriate to hold a DC voting rights march. And even if he hadn't done this it would still be appropriate based upon his history of trying to gain voting rights for those who lacked them (helped of course by SNCC, the black panther party (yes, look up the beginning of the bp's) as well as other movement groups

by Ryan Keefe on Oct 15, 2011 2:51 pm • linkreport

Jasper,

What the story didn't mention is that this is the symptom of a larger problem: our land use and transportation planning decisions encourage jobs to be spread out in far flung locations. As a result, it becomes harder for people to have the commuting stability that employment centralization brings.

It's more cost-effective to move people in and out of the core (and near-core) in a radial pattern than it is to accomodate every commute path entirely within the periphery.

by Eric Fidler on Oct 15, 2011 3:40 pm • linkreport

@ Eric: I completely agree with you. The world could be better. My point was that the example is rather unrealistic. There are very few couples that have the same job for 10 years in a row.

It seems that the point of the calculation is to come up with a high number, so that people are impressed. Well, then why not divide things out to a scale people understand? $125,000 in 10 years is $12,500 per year, i.e. more than $1000 a month...

Also, I resent the notion that if everybody would just live next to their job, there would be no traffic. That can and will never happen. People, and especially couples can not always have jobs next door. People change jobs. Jobs move. People move to different housing. Or they don't. Because their house is underwater.

So, stop dreaming of futures that will never become real, and start fixing problems from where we are now.

[And that is not directed at you personally, but at urbanists in general].

by Jasper on Oct 15, 2011 5:00 pm • linkreport

$2100 a month for DTSS? Looks like I'll be moving again...

by Redline SOS on Oct 15, 2011 7:32 pm • linkreport

Ha, here I thought I was the only one bemused by Cain's similarities to SimCity 4... I actually named one of my cities Caindom for that very reason. The mayor's name is Citizen Cain and I am trying to play without touching the tax rates *at all*. It's been among my more difficult cities... currently in a multi-year economic downturn that's necessitated a prison system, missile complex, toxic waste dump, defunding parks & rec, slicing the police budget by 75%, and completely eliminating fire services. On that last one: I bulldozed 2 acre lines of land between blocks to prevent the spread of the inevitable fires. It's been fun!

by Bossi on Oct 16, 2011 12:34 pm • linkreport

People don't know how to merge. Every single area I've driven in, when three lanes go to two, traffic comes to a standstill if there is much volume at all. This is due to both excessive speed and unsafe following distances.

by kinverson on Oct 16, 2011 12:44 pm • linkreport

Bossi, I forget about the tax rates most of the time. I remember, back 5 years ago or so, before I discovered Simtrop and its goodies, I played with a bit more liberal style. The sliders were always at 120% and I got messages saying "The teachers don't need Cadillacs" and the like. I always took out huge loans whenever I felt like it, and subsequently, I had to abandon the city after 20 years or so.

See the similarity to the federal government here?

Nowadays, I play with a bit more libertarian style. I don't use money cheats generally. Services are provided on an "as needed" basis, with the slider just a bit above demand for healthcare and education. There usually is only 1 fire station in an industrial district, though if the city is large there might be another one on the opposite side of town. Police Stations are built when the residents finally get sick of vigilante justice. Currently, I set taxes normally at 7%, with $$$ res getting taxed 20% (the maximum rate) not because I want to take their money, but because they build their monstrous houses in a tacky way and ruin my perfectly planned subdivisions. If only there was a way to have the rich build only where I want them to build.

SimCity 4 does need a better transit simulator. Transit, no matter how good, isn't used by 50% in a small sprawling city. I managed to play with a tool complementary with the NAM (Network Addition Mod) and set the transit use selection at:
$ 20% transit, 80% car
$$ 5% transit, 80% car, 15% fastest
$$$ 100 car.

That seems to model the rest of the USA at a more reasonable level. Now my next wish is to find a way to set the routes and schedules instead of assuming that 1 person = 1 bus.

Another transportation wish is to include more traffic than just home-work traffic. People shop, attend church, go to school, go to events, etc. Traffic demand should properly model that fact.

by Zmapper on Oct 16, 2011 8:42 pm • linkreport

The Lifehacker article is over-simplified and without much regard to many other important interests that a couple (with or w/o kids) may have in choosing a home.

by Fitz on Oct 17, 2011 9:00 am • linkreport

+1 for the SimCity nerds. Last version I played was SimCity 2000. I learned I should never go into politics. I liked messing with the people too much. Build a city, then eliminate all police stations. Or yank taxes to the max. Replace all roads with rivers. Replace the highrises downtown with agriculture. And then watch the city collapse. Wohoo!

I never liked the disasters. I was way better creating them myself.

by Jasper on Oct 17, 2011 10:58 am • linkreport

I think the figure of $125,000 over ten years is excessive. These people are likely to have cars anyway. If they use any form of trasnportation other than walking, there are out-of-pocket costs. Some people drive to transit stations as well.
Even biking is not virtually free, as they suggest. I commute by bike around 3,000 miles a year, do a lot of maintenance myself, and still spend nearly $1,000 a year on it (including clothing).

by Tim on Oct 17, 2011 12:14 pm • linkreport

This is news?

The New Jersey Turnpike has had variable speed limits since the 1980's.

by ceefer66 on Oct 17, 2011 12:20 pm • linkreport

"The New Jersey Turnpike has had variable speed limits since the 1980's."

...that are generally ignored and with a very archaic way of displaying said speed limits.

by Froggie on Oct 17, 2011 1:06 pm • linkreport

@Tim -

You must have some pretty fancy duds.

by sk on Oct 17, 2011 1:33 pm • linkreport

I budget $100/yr for clothes- and I still rarely even make that mark! ...Then again, I'm also not exactly what one would call fashionable.

My 10-year car costs come out to about $50,000- including vehicle, fuel, maintenance, parking, and insurance... but I'll be quick to say that for a number of reasons I am likely to be on the lower end of the car-owning cost spectrum.

by Bossi on Oct 17, 2011 1:38 pm • linkreport

"...that are generally ignored and with a very archaic way of displaying said speed limits."

What's "archaic" about bright neon signs that describe conditions (accident, construction, weather, etc.) and stretch accross the full roadway? What are you looking for? A jumbotron?

As for the speed limits being "generally ignored", I feel much safer in NJ where drivers keep up with the pace of traffic than in a place like Virginia with its left-lane cruisers. Those self-appointed speed-limit enforcers create a truly dangerous situation.

And they carry that nonsense elsewhwhere. Whenever I see traffic bunched up in the left lane on the Jersey Turnpike, the culprit is very often someone with Virginia plates.

by ceefer66 on Oct 17, 2011 3:11 pm • linkreport

Year-round riding long distances requires buying and replacing good equipment. Lobster gloves, heavy duty leggings, good tires, new drivetrain every 9 months, etc. 80% of the parts on my current bike have been replaced as old parts wore out. And bargain stuff isn't a bargain when you're replacing your third flat in 20 degree weather in the dark. The thesis was that this couple could do without driving. That means year-round, and distances comparable to the average commute, which I believe is somewhere around 11 - 15 miles.

by Tim on Oct 17, 2011 4:03 pm • linkreport

I've argued for years that lower speed limits in the city would improve overall traffic flow--not reduce it. Folks like @Lance inevitably point to some outdated study that focused on the traffic characteristics of segregated interstate highways. Notwithstanding the fact that interstates and surface streets have nearly nothing to do with one another, it's good to see that even the special case of "fast speeds on interstates equals better throughput" has been debunked.

by oboe on Oct 17, 2011 4:43 pm • linkreport

@ceefer66:

I feel much safer in NJ where drivers keep up with the pace of traffic than in a place like Virginia with its left-lane cruisers. Those self-appointed speed-limit enforcers create a truly dangerous situation.

I couldn't agree more. Whenever I'm in the DuPont Circle area, I like to run pell-mell down the sidewalks of Connecticut Ave. You wouldn't believe the number of "dawdlers" who've appointed themselves "traffic Nazi" who block the sidewalks, and force me to run into them from behind. You can practically see the entitlement and arrogance emanating from them like cartoon stink-lines.

And don't even get me started on all the human speed bumps who think they can keep me from riding my bicycle on the sidewalk at a reasonable 15-20 mph.

by Oboe's Id on Oct 17, 2011 4:47 pm • linkreport

Ceefer wrote: "What's "archaic" about bright neon signs that describe conditions (accident, construction, weather, etc.) and stretch accross the full roadway? What are you looking for? A jumbotron?"

Static message signs, especially "bright neon signs" became archaic over a decade ago when Variable Message Signs (VMS) became widely available. VMS also have the benefit of customizing the message to suit the situation, i.e. "CRASH NEAR MP 69.2" or "SLOW TRAFFIC EXIT 177 TO EXIT 174", etc etc. Those monstrosities over the Turnpike today only give you the general category...they don't even come close to giving you details like how big or how many lanes blocked or how far down before you hit the problem.

by Froggie on Oct 17, 2011 5:24 pm • linkreport

@ ceefer66:What's "archaic" about bright neon signs that describe conditions (accident, construction, weather, etc.) and stretch accross the full roadway? What are you looking for? A jumbotron?

Did you see the images I posted above? That's what I'm looking for. Old shit they've had in Europe for years. Froggie +1.

by Jasper on Oct 18, 2011 9:39 am • linkreport

@Tim

I am confused. Was your bike commuting cost estimate based on your commute or the hypothetical average commute?

by sk on Oct 18, 2011 1:35 pm • linkreport

VDOT is apparently looking to issue an RFP for the type of on-road traffic management system some of you are talking about: http://wtop.com/?nid=41&sid=2597558

by Stephen Miller on Oct 19, 2011 1:49 pm • linkreport

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