This is about how to survive beltway traffic. It applies to any beltway around a big city anywhere in the United States, but is particularly about the Washington, DC beltway. So, if you’re one of the lucky to get to ride on this stretch of road every day, then good for you! Read on, my friends. If not, you’ll still enjoy this article and might learn something about traffic anyway.
The Washington, DC beltway is a nightmare. I know, because I drive it every day. I live in Hagerstown, MD yet work in Upper Marlboro, MD. The distance is about 90 miles if you go by way of the beltway through DC. The first summer I worked there, I could get to work in 2 hours and get home in two hours. DUring the school year, I had to add about a half an hour each way. This is no longer the case. Each year, the traffic gets worse. I would say that you can assume to add about a half an hour on each way, each year to your drive if you have a long commute and use the Washington, DC beltway.
So, what’s the problem? Why’s the traffic getting worse? There are more and more people in the area, and more and more jobs. More people are making long commutes. Is this enough mores for you? There seems to be no solution to the problem, if you listen to the local radio stations and to the government and lawmakers. Meek attempts are being made to deal with the situation, but none of these are working fast enough and reduce the traffic enough to make much of a difference.
One attempt has been with increasing mass transit. More trains are available so people can park their cars and ride into their jobs. This might get a few people off the road, but it hasn’t seemed to get many off the road. And, if you live somewhere the trains don’t service, you’re still having to drive to get to the train, further clogging the roads. A second attempt is the intercounty-connector, the ICC. This is getting alot of hype. It’s supposed to drastically reduce the traffic on the beltway because those traveling to Prince George’s County from Montgomery County, MD will not have to use the beltway, but can use this new road. Problem is, this may take years to build! And, there is steaming opposition to it from environmental groups.
It seems to me that we need more than these small fixes. We need some great minds to come together and come up with a solution to the problem. We as humans are supposed to have these brains that really work, and be able to use them for the greater good. I can’t personally believe that we let ourselves down as far as coming up with a solution to beltway traffic problems.
Are we really a creative, problem-solving nation? Do we really search to find positive answers to problems, or do we just create more drama for ourselves? I really feel that as Americans, we are part of the reason why we have problems. If we weren’t so individualized, and self-actualized, etc., we would probably be able to overcome the problem of overcrowding on the beltways. Why? Because we would actually carpool together, allow more people to telework, and have staggered times for people coming and leaving each day.
So, what do I think is the solution? My only idea thus far is for us to build a mass transit system that reaches everywhere and goes more underground. You can get to the most remote locations, and you can get anywhere. Remember watching the cartoon The Jetsons? The people travelled on this conveyer belt before leaving their homes and getting into a space vehicle. My idea is to have a conveyer belt type system, where the conveyer belt goes to each person’s home, and you just step on and it takes you underground, in an enclosed network, until you get to a larger belt with more people. Think of it like a diagram of your lungs. The lungs have a main branch, that goes off into smaller branches, and smaller branches until you get to the smallest ones- the alveoli. The alveoli would be like the ones that get to your house, whereas the large branches would be the ones around the beltway. Then, there are no accidents, because there are no cars or trains, and you reach small destinations.
Well, until we come up with a solution, here are some ideas for how to deal with what is on the plate right now- traffic, traffic, traffic!
I’m going to use a new approach here to entice more readers to this article. I’m going to do my top ten list David Letterman style (in other words, hopefully it will be not only informative, but also funny.)
1. The first thing you can do is something that will force the government and lawmakers to create a solution to the problem. I might formerly have said that you should write your congressmen letters until they start to do something, but do you really think that’s going to work? So what would force a quicker response? If we all decide not to go to work, and have a strike. The economy suffers and noone gets anything accomplished. Eventually, someone is going to listen and have to do something to stop the strike!
2. Next, create a “People’s Union.” Here, all People are part of the Union. The Union will help them out when we all decide to do this strike that’s in number one.
3. Hold some type of major event that everyone will want to attend, in some remote location. Make sure it’s somewhere that noone will be able to use the beltway to get there, but some type of back road. This will then free up the beltway.
4. Create a new staggered-holiday. The holiday is celebrated once a year by each person, but is a different day for each person. It could be the Birthday Holiday. THen, each person takes off work the closest workday to their birthday. At least say 500 people on any given day probably share that birthday, so you’re clearing a few people off the road each day.
So, the next few are going to be serious, sorry. I actually do want you to get some useful information out of this article. That was really its intended purpose. I just had to throw the other stuff in there because I am so frustrated that noone seems to be able to solve any of the problems.
For any of these to work, however, each citizen must do her or his part!
5. Help there be less accidents on the beltway. From driving on the beltway each day, the accidents I see seem to stem from a couple of main causes. ONe is from people following too closely, whereas another one is from changing lanes without being sure you have clearance. Everyday, I think I must avoid at least three accidents, because when someone follows me too closely I move over and let them pass. I also try to stay back at least five car lengths of the car in front of me when driving 55.
6. Talk to your employer about teleworking. I just listened to a radio station announce today that for businesses in the Washington, DC area to stay competitive and entice top-notch employees to work for them, businesses will need to allow some type of teleworking. (103.5 FM, WTOP Radio, September 28, 2007 at 6:30 am.) What this means is that you’ll be allowed to work from home at least part of the time, even if it’s only one day per week. Each day you aren’t on the road, you’re helping to solve the traffic problem.
7. Carpool. I know it’s asking alot, but you really could find someone who is taking a similar trip every day to you, that you could share rides with. Or, you could drive to their home, and drive in with them if not. This means you give up some of your own freedom, because you have to make sure you coordinate with the other person. But you are helping solve a problem!
8. Try to change your work hours. If you can come in a half an hour earlier, or leave a half an hour later, you will be avoiding the heaviest part of the rush. I tried this one day this week- I left my home at 4 am instead of 4:30. It was amazing that the traffic a little earlier was lighter. The volume starts to build and then you might as well forget about it! Even if you can’t change your work hours, you could still leave earlier, and then just sit and read the paper before your day starts, or even do some extra work to impress your boss! Leaving a little later helps as well because the traffic lightens after a certain point.
9. Try an alternative route. I personally decided that there is no way for me to get home using the outer loop of the beltway from Route 202 to Interstate 270, and then north on 270. The traffic is just too bad. So, I decided to try going through Baltimore to get home. I don’t want to spill my secrets, but I now go home via Baltimore, and it saves me a half an hour each day, even though it adds 20 miles to my trip.
10. Drive a smaller car. If we all had smaller cars, we would take up less room on the beltway. Think about this one- it really makes common sense!