Stuck in traffic? Muse on this

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."
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