Posted by: Mark Nichols
20 Sep 2007
Dime Brothers are no strangers to traffic. So it is with a great ballyhoo that we provide links to the Texas Transportation Institute and their recently released traffic report.
Here's the link to the TTI website.
Here is the conclusion that was given on the radio in Connecticut time and again (including local NPR):
"The yearly delay for the peak-period traveler was 38 hours in 2005..."
By the way, peak hours are 6-9 a.m. and 4-7 p.m.
Everyone - that is an AVERAGE number. Why didn't radio stations make a bigger deal of how awful our particular area is? In the Bridgeport report we can see that compared to other medium group-sized areas (500,000-1,000,000 persons), Bridgeport receives an H, H pluses, an F, and an F+ on traffic measures such as delay per traveler and travel time index. In normal grading parlance, Bridgeport is receiving Fs and F minuses. (Well, I'm exaggerating slightly, since the report only has four grades per measure. But basically, Bridgeport ain't doing well.) Bridgeport's yearly delay should be MUCH higher than 38 hours.
The travel time index is a measure I've been looking at. It is "a measure of congestion that focuses on each trip and each mile of travel. The ratio of travel time in the peak period to travel time in free-flow. A value of 1.30 indicates a 20-minute free-flow trip takes 26 minutes in the peak." Free-flow speeds are assumed to be "60 mph on freeways and 35 mph on arterials." I didn't look around enough to find the travel time index for Bridgeport, but this I know based on the grades and my experience - it's high.
Off peak I can drive from my home to my work in 24 minutes. That's parking lot to parking lot. I'll add some time to that just to be conservative. I'll say it takes 28 minutes. Today I left work at 6:15 am (just after the start of the peak) and pulled into work at 7:25 am - there was an accident that caused extra delays (an accident that was on a DIFFERENT HIGWAY and GOING IN THE OPPOSITE DIRECTION and EXITS PAST WHERE I ACTUALLY WORK!!! I emphasize this because of how ludicrous this sounds. Traffic was bad because of a different highway and a different direction and a different area of highway that I was miles away from. This is the kind of garbage that clogs Connecticut roads all the time). So today it only took me 70 minutes (a 2.5 index) because I took side roads and avoided what would have been an hour and 40 minute commute on the highway alone (3.6 index). Anyway, on a usual fall day leaving at 6:15 it might take me 50 minutes to get to work (a 1.8 index).
At different times of the year and leaving at different times within the peak my travel time can vary drastically. In the summer I might be able to leave at 7 and get to work in 35 minutes (1.25 index). But what if I left when I actually wanted to? ...and stuck to the highway instead of taking side roads when the going got tough? The indexes would be worse. So here's what we know: Bridgeport is already doing poorly on these ratings, and commuters like me are already adjusting by leaving earlier/later and taking different routes. That means things are worse than they appear on paper.
Assuming a daily index of 1.25 each way to work would cost me 16 minutes a day. If I drive to and from work for 40 weeks of the year (sometimes I can work from home), that means I will waste 53.3 hours of my life a year. AND THAT'S AN UNDERESTIMATE! Plus I'm more ornery for having to wake up and leave earlier. I understand the wasted hours depend on commute length, but the index figures are bad enough - and they're neutral to distance. In a best-case and unrealistic scenario I'm looking at a 1.25.
My solution? I could move to Fairfield County and pay $300,000 for a 2-bedroom condo that is beat up and in an ugly part of town, continue to lobby my work to create an office in my hometown, or (shhh!) get a different job. Actually, the master report offers some solutions (which I haven't read yet). Hopefully governments can figure out this traffic stuff, and hopefully I don't go insane before they do.
So that you know, I would love to take public transportation. It's just that it would currently take three trains... or two trains and a shuttle/taxi... or a drive, a train, and two buses.... And I would love to commute with someone else in one of those Easy Street vans... except that I wouldn't. Bend my schedule to other peoples' whims? Take an hour and a half to commute? No on all counts. I like my flexibility - leave work when I want, leave FOR work when I want, kind of.
Good luck out there in the concrete jungle!