Monday, November 30, 2009

Traffic: the Not So Great Equalizer

SAN DIEGO – Except for wildfires in the Southwest corner, the year round climate is the best I have ever experienced.

Thanks to the Navy, I have seen pretty much all of the climates of the world. Although personal, my assessment has some validity.

I know I wax excessively about the Southwest corner’s weather, I have not expressed my opinion here Middle Tennessee has the second-best year round climate in our country. I have even encouraged Blythe, my oldest daughter and her husband to consider moving to Tennessee.

Of course, they live in Austin, TX, and pretty much all of Texas has terrible weather except for about two months a year.

Weather vs. Traffic

One attraction for living in the Southwest corner is weather. One thing which could make me leave is traffic.

Opinions about traffic depend on where we are and what we have experienced. I often moan about Los Angeles, but San Diego’s traffic is trying to compete. This became extremely clear to me just this past week.

I had to go downtown San Diego on a business errand last Tuesday. From our Bonita home, this is an early commute of about 30 to 40 minutes or 20 minutes in other hours. I left later to avoid the heaviest commute.

After a few miles, my wife calls to warn of a traffic backup on Interstate 5, the major north-south route to downtown. She did not know why. Soon, a friend called, adding the traffic was bad elsewhere. When I asked why, he said a woman was threatening to jump off a bridge near where CA-94, an east-west “freeway” intersects with I-5.

I immediately opted for a surface road route, because I cannot abide slow moving traffic.

It did me no good.

Every road was flush with really, I mean really slow-moving traffic. The woman’s crisis had become a crisis for everyone. The police closed off all south-bound lanes and all but two north-bound lanes of I-5, and closed all lanes on CA-94.

The woman’s problems had whacked the travel of about 300,000 cars (my estimation).
I determined my route and listened to traffic reports.

A Call to Henry

Having traveled about 100-feet in fifteen minutes, I called my friend Henry Harding in Lebanon. Henry and I talked for about 45-minutes discussing everything from family and friends, wives, football, and several jokes while I covered about half of the 17 miles to my destination.

The trip downtown took almost two hours. I made the trip home in 15 minutes. The woman came down after about five hours on the bridge.

Daughter Blythe taught me traffic was relative. She and Jason have been looking for a place to move from Austin for years. They have looked in the Northwest, the East coast, and other locales.

About six years ago, they were visiting here when we went for a Saturday morning ride. The traffic, although nothing like that precipitated by the woman’s threat to jump off a bridge, was heavy for a weekend.

Finally, Blythe said, “You know, I guess if we are going to make money in the traditional way, we are going to have to live in or near a big city, and we are going to have to deal with traffic like this.”

Not quite.

Nashville Traffic

In the spring of 2004, I was sent to Nashville to acquire certification as an ISO-9000 auditor. The location was on Briley Parkway. I stayed with my parents and drove their Buick to the training site.

The first morning I was motoring west on Interstate 40, passing Mount Juliet when the HOV lanes commenced (they call them commuter lanes in the Southwest corner). It was 6:45 a.m. While I drove in the number two lane, driver-only cars in those HOV lanes passed me. I was flummoxed about such blatant disregard of the two-occupant rule. Then, I noticed signs establishing the HOV lane restrictions starting at 7:30 or 7:00. This would generate gridlock out here where commuter lanes are always or start at 5:00 a.m.

The radio station gave a traffic report. The traffic guy described the situation on I-40 into Nashville as despicable. “Horrible traffic,” he said. “Real problems are on I-40 West into the city,” he whined.

I was amazed at the assessment. It would have been considered a high-speed commute in the Southwest corner.

It ain’t the same.

That’s one for the home team.

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