Tragedy of the commute, continued

Well, seeing that I don’t have a photo dump, I might as well do something else here.

So my concern is that this is going to turn into a blog about how much I hate my commute. I think I am trying to spare my audience this fate. But there are some days where I just can’t take it anymore.

These fucking idiots just don’t know how to drive.

By these fucking idiots, I mean pretty much everyone I encounter.

There are a couple of things that generated this comment. I used to take the back roads to work, and this caused me to have a roughly half hour commute, or twenty minutes on good days.

I hated every second of it. Constant turns, constant waiting for people to make left turns on single lane roads, constantly finding myself stuck behind garbage trucks that seemed to appear out of nowhere.

There had to be a better way to commute.

So at some point I decided to roll the dice on taking the highway to work. This would actually be two highways, first I-66 then I-495. Well, what do you know! It is actually a lot faster, reducing my commute to 15 min if there is no traffic, and twenty if there is.

But the quality of those minutes is significantly worse. And I am not sure on what side of the cost benefit analysis I have fallen.

There are two main points here. The first is that American infrastructure is the worst in the world. I have never experienced problems on roads like this. They just don’t seem to make any sense to me, and nor do the problems that seem to occur. As far as I can tell, American highways function as bottlenecks where as you get increasingly further from cities the highways restrict in the amount of lanes that you have. You would think that with a country the size of America people wouldn’t spare to much on the size of roads, but for some reason it was decided that this should be where to save money. So when I am on I-66 in the morning there are often several massive slow downs. One begins to form right as I first get on the highway, and is caused by the fact that the geniuses who built this road decided that as you get away from the highway you would need fewer lanes. A logical place to do this would be where I-66 feeds into the Dulles toll road, another major road that many commuters use. But that isn’t the case. I-66 oscillates between being a two lane and three lane road several times before the Dulles toll road turn off. After which, when mot of the traffic has left, it turns back into a three lane road for a while.

Sometimes I take another major highway, I-95 south, to go visit friends in Richmond. This same phenomnon seems to occur, except the roads oscillation starts damn near six lanes, and gradually over the two hour or so journey the whole road slowly bottlenecks down to two lanes. This of course causes random spontaneous traffic jams that seem to have no logical explanation.

It almost feels like American roads are built by fucking dice roll, a complaint many foreigners living in DC seem to have. I can just imagine the city planners saying “hey I rolled a six put a fucking traffic circle there, then roll a d20 and see what happens next. 14? Ok, New York avenue now turns into Nebraska avenue” It would seem pretty fucking wild were it not annoying.

Now the second problem here is that the drivers are morons. All of them.

If asked, I would tell you that I learned to drive in Europe. My parent’s would disagree with this, but my parents are idiots. At twenty year’s old I got my driver’s license and drove in the US for about a year or so before moving to Europe, where I drove much less frequently but often to greater distances. The first time I really got on a highway and drove a really great distance was in Europe, and I did this often enough that those rules really buried themselves into my head. The ways Americans drive doesn’t make any fucking sense to me, and this is part of my frustration, both at the other drivers and at my parents for not seeming to get this point1. It may just be my opinion, but I think Europeans are far better drivers, and this is evidenced by the fact that there are significantly less random-ass slowdowns on highways in Italy. Also, the rules to highway driving are clear there. Pass on the left, and if you need to slow down move right. Why can’t people just fucking do that in the US? Instead, people drive in whatever fucking lane they want however they want. It’s complete chaos. But what kills me every single time are the distances. When you are tearing road at 90mph, someone will decide that they need to be as close to you as humanly possible, so that they can count the pixels on your bumper stickers. However, once the traffic kicks in people decided that these are the moments when it would be useful to maintain a healthy distance of at least two or three car lengths, just in case the seventy thousand stopped cars in front of them suddenly make a sudden maneuver.


1Like I said, my parents are idiots. This isn’t the only way this kind of argument comes up with them. In dumb conversations about to what nationality I most pertain to (this is the kind of dumb conversation people of two nationalities often have) people often ask me where I went to high school, as if this settles anything. I went to high school in the USA, where I ignored / was ignored by my peers and didn’t get much out of it. I try to explain to people, like my parents, that I really began to socialize in Europe.

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