One of the great annoying things in life is traffic and depending on where you live some locations can be worst than others. The area I live in just happens to be one of the worst, in fact it’s listed as the fifth most populated area travelled in terms of traffic, and that would be the District of Columbia. I actually live in Maryland but DC is not too far away. It takes me about 30 seconds to reach Pennsylvania Avenue and after driving se about 2 miles I cross over into the District of Columbia and that’s where it all starts. Traffic is off the hook in DC.
I was driving on one of the major expressways and while preparing to switch over to the left lane I checked my side view mirror and there were no cars in close proximity. The closest car was about 500 feet back. As I turned on my left turn signal I prepared to switch lanes, and like always I checked the side view mirror once again just to be sure. This time there was a car right there, nearly parallel to me, which prevented me from immediately switching lanes. I sat there thinking where did he come from? That car looked as though it appeared out of no where. Then it hit me. Apparently he sped up when he saw I wanted to switch lanes. I thought that can’t be possible. Sure enough that very thing happened again and again. Once they see you want to change lanes they speed up. The drivers here are very aggressive and they have a need to pass you when ever they can.
If you drive down this one particular expressway,(I-295), for the most part traffic is smooth sailing. The cars are packed, sometimes like sardines in a can, but you are still able to travel at the speed limit, 55 mph. Even with this scenario some cars have a need to maneuver in and out of traffic with a constant need to pass you and jump in front of you just to gain a car lengths advantage. The time they save is probably about .002 seconds, for their effort. I just keep thinking why is this? Everyone is always rushing to get to every where. Now I understand that there are some that will exhibit this type of driving behavior once in awhile but in DC it seems like everybody and all the time.
The design of the roads further exasperates the problem. I have come across several entrance ramps leading to the freeway, which are parallel to other exit ramps coming off the freeway. The problem stems from the fact that when I am getting on the entrance ramp and someone else is exiting the exit ramp our cars need to criss cross in order to get where we need to go. In other words where I am the driver exiting needs to be and vice versa. It almost causes a collision every time. I keep thinking who designed these streets and expressways. What were they thinking?
How about those parking meters? You cannot escape parking meters. It’s a way of life. They are every where. The place I used to work the building was surrounded with parking meters. All day long people were going in and out of the building to feed the meters. It was not uncommon for two or three people to get up in the middle of a meeting and go feed the parking meter. No one thought it was rude or anything of the sort, that’s just how it was. Every one did it. I kept thinking you have got to be kidding me. This is bizarre. You had better feed those meters because the meter maid was on her job. If anybody does an excellent job performing their duties it’s the meter maid. One minute past the allotted time and there you have it, a $25 fine. The parking meters used to cost $1 per hour and just recently they increased the fee to $2 per hour. They could not have done it at a better time, when people have all sorts of extra cash laying around.
I know a lot of cities are starting to put those cameras in place that take a picture of your car when you are speeding but here they seem to be placed at the most inappropriate places. There is this one particular street, Connecticut Avenue, and the speed limit is 30 mph and nobody does 30 mph. I received a ticket for doing 41 mph. That was $50. Apparently you cannot escape those cameras on this street. So I am thinking they must issue enough tickets to balance the budget deficit. I was in the post office and casually mentioned to the clerk that I was mailing out a ticket which I received courtesy of the cameras. The clerk then responded that he had received one as well about a year go and he contested it. I asked, how did that go. “Well, he said you have to pay the fine first then contest it. ” I paid the fine and contested it over a year ago, he said, and I have not heard anything yet.” Ah! Nuff said. Oh yeah. Make sure you pay those fines. If you have I think it’s three unpaid parking tickets they give you the boot. They actually hook some apparatus to your tire called the boot which prevents you from driving your car until your fines are paid.
Then there is interstate I-495. Wow. Here is an expressway which is 4 or 5 lanes wide in some sections, yet the traffic appears to always be backed up. How can this be? I remember driving to and from work and the entire expressway just looked like a sea of cars, as far as the eye could see and you were moving at a snail’s pace; you completed one mile in 15 or 20 minutes. This was the status quo coming and going. It’s pretty much maddening. Can you put up with that day in and day out? Sometimes I feel like I can get out of my park, pitch a tent, cook a hot dog, and take a nap all before the traffic starts to flow again.
Whenever there is an accident they find it necessary to shut down the entire road and re-route the traffic to some of the other major streets. Now this really leads to chaos. It may just be me but it appears that all of the expressways and streets are interlocking and connected. I don’t know how this works but when ever one highway or street is backed up no matter what street you take will also be backed up even if it’s not even close to the original site where the traffic problems were experienced.
Now you can avoid this traffic if you don’t mind taking the metro system, but that just extends your day out. I needed to go to DC once, and where I was going was 5.8 miles away, it was the Capitol for a tour and I decided to take the metro system instead because of the traffic. I took a bus to the metro system, which took about 15 or 20 minutes, upon arriving at the metro station I then waited an additional 5 minutes, which wasn’t bad, and the ride to DC took about 35 minutes. Had I taken my car the drive would have been 10 minutes top, but the traffic and those meters. During this time of day you are not likely to find a meter.
Another time I had an appointment in DC and I drove. My appointment was at 9:00 am and I departed from by home at 7:00 am. I said that should give me plenty of time to get there. I arrived at 7:45 am. Immediately I started looking for a place to park. I drove and drove and drove at 8:45 am I was still driving around in circles looking for a place to park. This has never happened to me. Normally I am always able to find a parking space. There did not seem to be any parking garages around. Hey this is strange I thought. Where do I park? I inquired about parking garages and a police man pointed me in the direction and the location was not convenient at all. So I thought well if I hurry I can still make my appointment. No big deal. I turned into the parking garage and pulled out my debit card because as luck would have it I had no money on me with the exception of the change I was going to use for the parking meter. Well it turned out that they only took cash and the cost would be $12.00? I ended up going back home and rescheduling. I wasn’t even going to look for a bank.
When I first started driving in to work which was in DC I did a mapquest to get driving directions, (I know, that was my first mistake). The directions indicated my destination was 12.76 miles away and it would take me approximately 52 minutes to arrive. I thought, “what 52 minutes to drive 12.76 miles? You have got to be kidding me. Just a word of caution, whenever you receive a driving time from mapque
st, add on 15 to 30 minutes if your destination is DC. The traffic will make sure you spend the extra time in route. I must have stopped every 500 feet for something or other. I consistently stopped for what appeared to be the entire trip. Sixty days prior to starting a job I had a state inspection done on my car. My brakes were in great shape but two months later I was getting them replaced because they were grinding down to the rotors. No warning one day they just started grinding. This can’t be my brakes were in great shape only 60 days ago. That’s what happens when you stop and go consistently. This was another first.
The majority of these things took place when I first arrived in Maryland but since then I have learned to navigate around the city a little better. Mostly I stay away from those expressways that are congested consistently. I did not know that I needed a major plan of action just to travel through the city, but apparently that’s what you have to do especially if you are not familiar with the roads and expressways. You learn by trial and error.