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More bitching about commuting - Arvind Narayanan's journal [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]

More bitching about commuting [Jun. 12th, 2007|07:06 pm]
Arvind Narayanan
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[Current Mood |amusedamused]

So I need to drive up to SF to do a car switcheroo. I'm done with work and I'm sitting in front of my computer hitting refresh on the traffic report page again and again waiting for Northbound 101 to clear up. I'm not completely sure how this is better than sitting in traffic, but it sure feels better :-) Commuting, thinking about commuting and planning my commute (oh, and blogging about commuting) seem to be taking up more and more of my day.

If the roads were up to me, this is what things would be like. Brace yourself.
  • All areas of cities except for the hip parts downtown would be urban sprawl. Freeways would criss-cross the whole country, so that city driving would be minimal.
  • All roads would have at least two lanes. One idiot won't be able to hold up the traffic any more.
  • Intersections would be minimal. Roundabouts would be the preferred junction type.
  • Where intersections existed, there would always be a left turn lane and a right turn lane when you approach the intersection. That way, you could always make a right on a red if there was no cross traffic, and left turners could never hold up the traffic headed straight. (This fact alone currently wastes a significant chunk of the time in city driving.)
  • Minimum speed limits would be strictly enforced everywhere (except for the rightmost lane). Since all roads have at least two lanes, this wouldn't be much of a problem.
  • On freeways, access to lanes wouldn't be based on carpooling or anything stupid like that, but instead on how much vehicle registration fees you paid (there'd be several levels and you can choose which bracket you want to be in). If you paid enough, you can always be sure of being able to use the leftmost lane and being sure of getting to your destination at the planned time.
Ok. Tell me how much you hate it in the comments.
LinkReply

Comments:
[User Picture]From: skthewimp
2007-06-13 02:32 am (UTC)
hey nice stuff da! when I took this job 10 months back and started driving 26 km each way across bangalore every day, I too started getting similar ideas.

i completely agree with most of the points you have put here. especially about having differnet lanes for left and right and straight while approaching signals, minimum speed limits etc.

tell me this, are buses a big problem in the US also? here the thing is there are some extremely busy roads (2 lanes each way) where every bus stop holds up traffic. buses TRAVEL on the right lane and move left to stop (btw this is India, so make the necessary adjustments), and cut right immediately after every stop. I know of at least 2 roads here where most of the traffic jams are caused by bus stops!
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From: devdasb
2007-06-13 06:59 am (UTC)

Make your ideas scale

Make your ideas work for the people who wont/can't drive, don't want to waste time commuting and will not add to the parking problem. Oh, and see how you can lower the environmental costs while you are at it. I want to see what happens when you get to the point of say, 200000 or more people per sq km, each with a car. Or when you have more cars than the roads can accomodate.

skthewimp, I solved that problem by relocating back to Mumbai. Working mass transit is great.
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[User Picture]From: arvindn
2007-06-13 07:38 am (UTC)

Re: Make your ideas scale

I already solved the crowding problem in my hypothetical scenario, in the first bullet point. Cities would be sprawling, not vertical. That puts a limit on the population density.

For the people who don't want to drive, live downtown. It's more expensive, but that's the tradeoff. Actually the same tradeoff exists now, only it'd be more acute in my scenario.
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From: devdasb
2007-06-13 08:42 am (UTC)

Re: Make your ideas scale

How big is your city? Bangalore is a small city to me, and Bangalore and Delhi show urban sprawl.

You aren't showing environmental friendliness either. What would happen to your city when gas hits 6 USD/gallon? 10 USD/gallon? What happens when you need to accomodate 200K people downtown in normal work hours (each with a car -- think parking)?
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[User Picture]From: arvindn
2007-06-13 07:34 am (UTC)
Not so much out here. First, there are very few buses. Second, they tend to ply on the major roads which have more than one lane. Third, there is usually a shoulder for the bus stop; the bus doesn't stop on the road itself.
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From: (Anonymous)
2007-06-18 03:56 am (UTC)
Bangalore public(aamAdmi) rely on buses for most of city commutes.
City is waiting to get metro train rapid transport system to distribute the crowd. In favour of people the thunb rule is to give way for public transport vehicles than private ones(try distributing a packed crowd on vehicles compared to single bus ).

Given the small lanes ,prvt. vehicles > BMTC buses and growing commuters I think double deckers, on-the-fly dividers made overnight on slightly wide roads (common nowadays), collapsible markers to distinguish bus stops ( require space so not possible everywhere) make sense.
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[User Picture]From: theswede
2007-06-13 08:05 am (UTC)
Roundabouts are the norm here these days - they're replacing intersections with roundabouts at a massive rate. It's a bitch, since people suck at driving in roundabouts - we have many more accidents now. On the upside, we have fewer fatal accidents, so the tradeoff still makes sense, but it's a bitch nonetheless. Did I mention I hate driving in roundabouts?

But then, the mass transit system is very good for most purposes - just not for my job, but such is the price I pay for working in the industrial sector on a consulting basis.
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[User Picture]From: arvindn
2007-06-15 05:39 pm (UTC)
That's surprising. I don't have much experience with roundabouts myself, but according to wikipedia:
Roundabouts are safer than both traffic circles and traditional intersections—having 40% fewer vehicle collisions, 80% fewer injuries and 90% fewer serious injuries and fatalities (according to a study of a sampling of roundabouts in the United States, compared with the intersections they replaced). Roundabouts also reduce points of conflict between pedestrians and motor vehicles and are therefore considered to be safer for them. However, roundabouts, especially large fast moving ones, are unpopular with some cyclists. This problem is sometimes handled on larger roundabouts by taking foot and bicycle traffic through a series of underpasses.

In addition to improved vehicle and pedestrian safety, and in spite of lower speeds, roundabouts dramatically outperform traffic circles in terms of vehicle throughput and, because a roundabout's circular traffic is always moving, they outperform ordinary junctions with traffic signals as well.
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[User Picture]From: theswede
2007-07-19 12:13 am (UTC)
I suspect it has to do with the already very low accident rate in Sweden, and much more skilled drivers, on average.

(Yes, I just got the email on this one, weird!)
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From: (Anonymous)
2007-06-19 04:44 pm (UTC)
1. With turns for both left and right is impossible. Most roads in cities were built after the cities. Hence, you have shops/houses at each corner which restricts the width of roads.
On freeways, access to lanes wouldn't be based on carpooling or anything stupid like that, but instead on how much vehicle registration fees you paid (there'd be several levels and you can choose which bracket you want to be in). If you paid enough, you can always be sure of being able to use the leftmost lane and being sure of getting to your destination at the planned time. <\i>

Isn't that a contradiction. You must think of a better name than freeways. Either way the idea sucks.
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[User Picture]From: arvindn
2007-06-19 05:31 pm (UTC)
The 'free' in freeways refers to the absence of intersections, not money. I hope that some day we will live in a world where the general population understands that roads, health care and so forth are not 'free' but paid for (in a grossly inefficient way) by your tax dollars.

You forgot to tell me why the idea sucks.
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From: (Anonymous)
2007-06-20 04:08 am (UTC)

Does not work

Minimum speed limits would be strictly enforced everywhere (except for the rightmost lane). Since all roads have at least two lanes, this wouldn't be much of a problem.

When you are stuck in traffic moving at 5mph and you see that this isn't a result of an accident also, you think - why can't everyone go at 50mph? The problem is this. Whatever you do, there'll be people shifting from the fast lanes to the slow lanes and vice versa which causes traffic to slow down. Let's say there is a major on-ramp coming in with a zillion cars merging, do you think the center lane can keep up at its minimum speed? Do you think people could merge from the rightmost to the center accelerating from 10 to 50mph in 0.1s. Same is the case with off-ramps. Just separating out right lanes and making the center ones fast has to face nearly the same problem that "all lanes are like center".

There are already some clever solutions that go farther than what you suggest, but still not enough. Have you noticed a thick white line that starts out when an exit approaches to separate out vehicles that are exiting - essentially to make them split before and not allow change of lanes at the last moment. The latter would require higher deceleration and is likely to slow down the rightmost lane more.

BTW, where are you interning this time? Again at M$ in CA? I believe M$'s crypto group is based there.
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[User Picture]From: arvindn
2007-06-20 04:31 am (UTC)

Re: Does not work

I'm generally slightly smarter than I let on :) I'm quite aware of the lane merging problem, but I didn't write about it because it was too boring. In my head the three solutions were to make the entry/exit lanes a lot longer, make way more freeways (as there would no doubt be in my libertarian utopia), and restrict entry into a freeway when it's operating at full capacity. Ok, that last one is probably stupid.

As for where I'm spending the summer, I'd rather say by email.
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