WASHINGTON — Here are some things about traffic congestion to think about while waiting for the light to change:
Pedestrians could get more crossing time. "Walk" signals and other pedestrian controls currently assume that people cross streets at a pace of 3.5 feet per second. That would drop to 3 feet under a pending Federal Highway Administration proposal, according to Doug Hecox, an agency spokesman. "Pedestrians are getting older and heavier," he explained. At busy urban intersections, pedestrians would gain 2 to 4 seconds at drivers' expense.
Commuting really is hell. Working women in a 2006 Texas survey rated driving to work their least favorite activity. Work itself came in second. Then came the commute home.
If arterial congestion is chronic, blame left turns. "Traffic turning left is the inevitable primary problem," said David Hartgen, emeritus professor of transportation studies at the University of North Carolina-Charlotte. Often, it's a turning lane overflowing due to rush-hour demand and backing up through-traffic. Or a left-turn signal too brief to clear the turning lane. Or too much on-coming traffic.
No traffic signal wait is forever. The longest standard cycle time is three minutes.
Zen helps. When green lights are properly synched to a designated speed, going faster only gets a driver to a red light faster, explained Douglas Noble, director of operations and management at the Institute for Transportation Engineers in Washington, D.C. In other words, he continued, sounding a bit like Yogi Berra: "If you're not rushing to get somewhere, you'll get there just as fast."