Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Traffic (not the movie that stunk)

So I am resolved to post everyday this week or at least everyday until I leave… which is Wednesday… so really there will only be 3 posts… never mind.

I sometimes fear the future, and it is not always for the same thing. I fear for my children, I fear for myself, and then sometimes I fear for a specific reason. Today, it is traffic. I just spent the last 1.5 hours in traffic, in what normally takes me about 45 minutes to get to work. And what is more maddening, was that it was at the Richmond Bridge, the last leg of my commute... which should take 7 minutes max!

So why do I fear traffic, it is not so much that I would ever act out or suffer from road rage; though I think I might have brushed with a couple of people today who had it. No, I fear how much worse it is going to get, especially in my life time. I have never seen it get better, from the time I started driving until now, and it has never gotten any better. What has happened since I started driving…the tolls on the bridges have gone from $1 to $4. Gas has gone from $1.50 to $3.75, car insurance, ironically has also risen, and yes I have seen no improvement in the traffic. Any improvements that Cal-trans makes, are at least 10 years over due, and all it does it put a band aid on the problem. It seems when ever a plan for road and traffic congestion improvement goes into effect, it is obsolete by the time it goes through the bureaucracy that all planning and construction has to go through in California. Once the 1000's permits are acquired, all animals and species that stands to be effected by the improvements are relocated into a new habitat (note, they also have to not be in their matting season), and the environmentalists are appeased by some extreme measure that will only counter act any good effects that the project will bring in the first place; then the project can move forward. I hate hippies. (Do not even get me started on the salamander protection that delayed the Bart expansion to SFO, which cost us 500 million and delayed the project by almost a year.) So after making it over all these hurdles, lining the unions and agencies with green so that the project can move forward, hiring the required number of minority business and construction owners to meet the affirmative action requirement that supposedly doesn’t exist… you end up with a project that no longer will effectively fix the problem, it is 10 + more years too late.

This fear is for the future of traffic, it can not get any better, only worse. The population is exploding, it is too expensive to make major improvements effectively and at a justifiable cost, see comments above. But it more than just that, as I looked at what caused the problem today, which ironically was road construction, I have decided that the days of traffic are only going to get worse. It used to be that an accident or some small incursion on the highway during commute time would cause a small disruption, maybe a small back up and delay. Now, if there is someone getting a ticket, it can cause a 45 minute back up. Why is this? Simple, more cars on the road; all moving at high speed, one person hitting their brakes causes more of a disruption to the people following behind. The cars are closer together, all trying to get to the same place, meanwhile the amount of road has not improved so compacting more cars into the same amount of space that was there 20 years ago, leaves little margin for error. One small screw up can create more havoc than ever before. And then there is road rage... (Try and remain calm with this soothing picture of a leisure drive through the Bay Area at dusk.)

Just a quick note, I was the victim of road rage today. In the process of trying to merge onto the bridge I found myself getting in front of a car that believed I shouldn’t. He laid into his horn for the entire length of the traffic light, almost 2 minutes, I timed him. What makes this story great??? While he was doing this, I rolled down my window, grinned… all the while having my earphones in so it looked like I could not hear him, or barely hear him. I love pissing off already pissed of people. It is funny to see them get more enraged.

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