Why The Fuck Do We Have Traffic?

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iBangPigeons

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Oct 23, 2017
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The largest people in urban areas complain about on a day to day basis is the traffic no doubt. For some, the answer as to why we have so much traffic in urban areas is just because there's so many people, but I don't like that answer. This forum will be divided into two sections, highway/freeway traffic, street traffic, and I will briefly discuss the role widespread use of GPS has on traffic as well. The second section on street traffic and GPS will come later because I can only write so much at a time bc of a short attention span oof

For California resident's (and even a lot of inter-state folks too), highway 405 [here on referred to as the 405] is notoriously ridiculous for the traffic it accumulates. But for those that don't know, the 405 is a highway that extends all the way from the north edge of Los Angeles, stretches all the way through the heart of downtown LA and halfway through Orange County [extending for a total of approx. 75 miles from start to end]. Now, why is this seemingly short highway the source of a lot of infamy? Well the most obvious answer is that this highway covers the most populated parts of California excluding the Bay / San Francisco area. A one mile stretch of this highway near Seal Beach in fact has the highest car count in the nation at an annual average daily traffic count of 378,000 vehicles, an average of 4.35 cars per second entering the highway on that one onramp [Office of Highway Policy Information]. Furthermore on that answer is that there are worse times to get on that highway than others. Between 10am-2pm and 8pm-6am its not bad at all, so a large contributor is commuter traffic during the weekdays. A lot of people are coming to and from work, and the highway is the quickest way for them to get back home. But is the sheer volume of cars the biggest reason why these traffic jams occur? In my opinion, no. I'm not going to argue that population isn't a significant contributor, but looking at the macrocosm of the highway system isn't what makes the traffic occur. Take a look at the gif below:
As you can see from the gif, for whatever reason, the red car has made an unsafe lane change and caused at least one other vehicle to hit their brakes. This example is a bit dramatized, and not every traffic jam is going to be created by one car making an unsafe lane change, the jam could also be caused by an accident (likely as a result of an unsafe lane change), but you get the idea. This unsafe lane change could be the product of a dozen different things: perhaps they were speeding and their exit is closer than they thought it was, so they needed to cut over, perhaps they did not notice how close the person in front of them was and had to swerve to avoid hitting them (or maybe just to save their brakes), perhaps their GPS decided to reroute or didn't update in a reasonable time and needed to exit the highway, perhaps the car in the lane to their right was in their blind spot and just didn't see them, or maybe the cars in the other lanes were going faster and their car couldn't accelerate fast enough to reach the speed of traffic of the other lanes in time, or maybe they misjudged how quickly one or more cars were going in the other lane. I'm sure we're all guilty of that at some point, where you pull out into a lane and an oncoming car has to slow down for you, or visa versa. It's an innocent enough mistake, so now why does it get as bad as it does? Well, as cars in one lane realize that their lane is slowing down, they want to get into other lanes that are moving quicker, so they punch it and try and get into another lane - another unsafe lane change, sometimes. A thousand times I've seen it happen right in front of my eyes, compounding an already miserable traffic jam just to move forward two car lengths and slam on their brakes for the cars that are slowing down in their new lane. Even in areas where the commuter lane is separated by double yellow lines, people will still cross it just to keep moving. Everyone on the highway is trying to get to their destination as fast as possible, because on your everyday commute, who wants to sit in traffic for longer than they have to? Unfortunately, making these drastic and brash maneuvers to get ahead in the traffic is only marginally beneficial to you in time saved, but this also consumes more gasoline to go the same distance, chronic rushed driving in traffic jams is going to take a much heavier toll on the maintenance on your transmission and brakes, there also poses a minor increase in chronic health risks associated with a stress related commute, especially if your commute is to and from a stressful job, rushed driving in traffic jams only compounds the problem, and most importantly, rushed driving in traffic jams increases your risk of getting into an accident. There's a thousand reasons how you could get into an accident during a traffic jam, and I'm sure everyone has had a hundred close calls with accidents either because of a mistake that you made or somebody else has made. Your personal competent and hyper-attentive driving is only so effective in preventing car accidents, and giving people proper reaction times to make adjustments is a necessity to ensuring your own safety.
In order to assure your own safety while driving and assist in the flow of traffic as part of your role as a driver in urban or congested areas, the most important thing is to give the person in front of you space. If you see traffic in front of you slowing down or coming to a stop, then coast down to the speed of the traffic ahead of you or gradually slow down by braking so that you and the vehicles behind you have a smooth transition in speed to give some forgiveness in drivers who may be distracted for whatever reason. If you're using your GPS to get to your destination, glance at the route occasionally to see if there are any changes in traffic conditions ahead of you, and be prepared to slow down or stop in advance if necessary. This may be frustrating, but giving the vehicle in front of you some space may result in vehicles in adjacent lanes changing into your lane to try and get ahead of other cars, and that is alright. At the end of the day, giving someone a marginal advantage in position in a traffic jam doesn't mean much even if it does feel like your efforts to help resolve traffic jams are being undermined by selfish drivers.
Secondly, traffic jams on highways can also be created by merging. According to the California Highway Patrol, here is what you should do when encountering an onramp:
53
"The RED car is entering a freeway from a side street. If you are driving that RED car, you have the following responsibilities;



    • Use the long onramp and acceleration lane to ACCELERATE to freeway speeds. If you try to enter the freeway at much slower speeds, you will do nothing but cause a problem.
    • USE your left turn signal. Remember, a signal doesn't automatically give you the right to change lanes. You have to do so safely. DO NOT cut across all lanes to the left lane.
    • You do NOT have the right of way. Plan accordingly and begin making your plan as you start onto the ramp, not when you reach the end.
    • If you still run out of space and haven't merged, pull over to the shoulder and wait for traffic to clear, then speed up on the shoulder and merge. DO NOT try to force your way on the freeway. (if you follow #3 and plan ahead, this won't happen)
The GREEN car is already on the freeway, driving in the #2 lane. If you are driving the GREEN car, you have the following responsibilities;



    • MAINTAIN your speed so the red car can plan for you.
    • You may change lanes to the #1 lane if safe to avoid the situation or you may slow down to allow the red car to merge in front of you.
If you are in the #1 lane, DO NOT change lanes into the #2 while vehicles are merging. Wait until they have merged, then you may change lanes for a future exit."
[
CHP - Placerville]

Now, this is not a perfect system for either drivers in this scenario unfortunately. A lot of onramps, especially along the 405 are short, metered, has an obscured vision of oncoming traffic, or traffic is simply moving at speeds exceeding the speed limit,. All of these things makes it so that driver 2 is at a disadvantage, especially on crowded highways such as the 405. So even if driver one does everything properly, there's still instances where they must make adjustments to speed to avoid a collision, even if the collision would not be their fault. I'm sure that we've all experienced a time where you tried to merge onto the highway, but the person in front of you is only going 45 mph when traffic is moving at 70 mph, and it is an extremely frustrating experience for all parties involved. Is it still driver two's fault if there is a collision as a result of them trying to merge at insufficient speeds? Absolutely, but driver one can also make adjustments to be forgiving to those drivers in order to prevent a larger problem for themselves or other vehicles on the road. My point is, that in combination with human nature, human errors, onramp design errors, and flaws in the traffic law systems all come together to create the problem of traffic jams along crowded highways, and while the heavy population of vehicles on the road compounds the problem of traffic, traffic is not created by population alone, but rather the collection of the problems listed above.
 

Luke

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They only allow 20 Episodes on Netflix at a time so it's currently not on there, but I found it here and think you should watch this!
 
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iBangPigeons

Staff member
Joined
Oct 23, 2017
Messages
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They only allow 20 Episodes on Netflix at a time so it's currently not on there, but I found it here and think you should watch this!
Honestly, never watched Adam Ruins Everything before but I might start now because that was actually a pretty interesting episode and I like that the whole thing still felt like more than just throwing around problems and statistics. Thanks for sharing, that had some interesting perspectives on the matter.
 

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