Thursday, June 26, 2014

Midwestern Traffic Pattern Mystery: Solution

In yesterday's posting, I invited explanations for a Midwestern Traffic Pattern Mystery:
Driving around quiet areas of the Midwest, in places lots of parking spots and very few traffic jams, I constantly found myself trying to make left turns, but needing to wait for ludicrous lengths of time. The traffic would just keep coming and coming...even though there was, again, really not much of it, all told.

It took me several days to figure out the reason; why it's so much more of an ordeal to make left turns in easy-going suburban Cleveland or Pittsburgh than in the bustling thoroughfares of Queens or Brooklyn.
Here's my theory: when the light turns green in a fast-paced urban area like New York City, everyone floors their accelerator. They move forward in a tight, ultra-competitive pack, each driver thirsting to advance to the front. So if you're waiting further up the road for them to pass by, they're all gone in a flash, leaving an empty, silent road to comfortably turn onto.

In the Midwest, things are more relaxed, so the pack fans out into an endless procession of well-spaced vehicles - none quite far enough apart to offer a chance to break in.

In the city (or speedy NYC suburbs), forty cars pass in 40 seconds. In Midwestern suburbia, twenty five cars take a couple minutes...while I sit there, grinding my teeth.

Edit: reader John Clark guessed right (see comments beneath previous posting)!

1 comment:

PSU John said...

You're probably right.

A little while ago I lived in a development that ended in a small but important commuter road. The exit from the development was maybe 1/2 a mile from the nearest traffic light.

At first turning out of the development was pretty easy. There'd be a pack of cars from time to time but open road behind them. Then the city put in speed cameras. Traffic slowed and the speed became much more uniform. The cars spaced apart further and it became much more difficult to exit the development.

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