Monday, February 28, 2005

This Town's Driving me Crazy

Ottawa is an Ojibwa word meaning; people who can’t drive.

Jim Unger said he could not have come up with the ‘Herman’ cartoon if he hadn’t lived in Ottawa. It’s that kind of place. Inspiring in an odd sort of way, and frustrating too; many rules simply don’t apply here.

In this town the left lane is just another place to drive slowly; but with a farther view. The concept of merging is unknown. Even if someone is turning right and starting their own lane they will wait until no one is coming in the next two lanes over. Turning left at an intersection; forget it. If they can’t turn into the right lane, they’re not moving. Same thing about turning right; if they can’t get into the left lane they’ll wait ‘til they can.

The Queensway is the cities only east–west corridor. One accident in each direction and the whole town grinds to a halt; it’s happened twice this winter. When the three lanes are alternately speeding up and slowing down, every third car changes lanes; like in the opening sequences of ‘Office Space’. The net relative positional effect is zero but no one seems aware of the fact. Half the cars coming down the entrance ramps go right to the end before shoe-horning their way in line, and will ignore a perfectly good one-hundred foot gap to pick up three cars lengths.

Because of the lane hoping obsession, the formerly fluid ‘box-car’ like movement of each lane is stilted. To avoid this, about fifteen cars a minute get off at each exit then get right back on again, I suspect they’re the ones booting it to the end of the ramp before cutting in. They pick up about forty car-lengths dong this at Woodroffe Ave. and maybe seventy at Acres Rd. and twenty five at Pinecrest. This surge of line jumpers compounds the already stunted movement caused by the lane changers and the entire herd slows down even more. I’ve only seen the cops do something about the exit jumpers twice in three years. They’re ignoring an impressive revenue stream:
[3 exits x 15 cars/min x 90 min x $100.00 =$ 405,000/day] That’s two million dollars a week!!!!

The drivers aren’t the only problem; the traffic planners don’t give them a chance. The planners try too hard, and want to make all the decisions for you. They tell you when you can turn and when you can go straight. You generally get eight seconds out of a one minute cycle to turn, and 22 seconds to go straight. In Toronto, you have 30 seconds out of each cycle to do what ever you want. Traffic moves better in Toronto because most of the decisions are left to the drivers;

I was driving into Toronto on August 14th 2003, about 4:00 pm. the day the lights went out. We got off the 401 at Vic Park and gently sifted through the streets down to the Danny. Even without the lights, traffic still moved better than in Ottawa, everyone was on the same page, was courteous, and turned left when ever the hell they felt like it.

Ottawans feel about Toronto what Canadians feel about The United States, so even suggesting that a big city traffic planner be brought into the equation pretty much guarantees that they’ll hire one from Renfrew. I think it has to do with having an ‘identity’. [sigh]

Italics Mine

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