Thursday, January 22, 2009

Seeing red

Ever feel like this in DC?
This sculpture sits in the middle of a roundabout just outside of Canary Wharf in London.
Photo: Flickr: REALJimBob.

I've been quiet on the blog for a while, but have come out of my winter hibernation to mention a pet peeve shared by many Washingtonians and those who travel through the District: poorly timed traffic lights. Have you ever tried to go across downtown, say from 14th Street to Chinatown down F or G Street, just for example? You'll hit each and every light. Don't bother taking a cab to that work meeting. You can walk faster.

The same holds true along many District streets. Try going up Connecticut Avenue from Dupont Circle to Bethesda. Going at a standard 30 miles per hour: Red light. Red LIGHT. RED LIGHT! I've discovered that you can actually take 395 into Virginia, to the GW Parkway, to the Beltway, and navigate a circle around the city and cut the time nearly in half from DC to Bethesda than going a straight line up Connecticut or Wisconsin (outside of rush hour).

It doesn't have to be this way. I can think of vast stretches of road just across the Maryland boundary or in New York City where the lights are synced to go with the traffic flow.

So my question is... has DC intentionally timed the lights to slow drivers and discourage use of cars OR is DDOT incapable of maintaining lights to keep the traffic flow (and decrease our stress levels)?


David Alpert said...

I don't know about Connecticut, but 16th is timed great. Coming into the city at off hours, you can go exactly 30 from the northern border until Columbia Heights and see every light turn green just as you approach.

In CH, with more lights, more pedestrians and important east-west routes crossing, the lights aren't timed just for 16th Street.

I've been on Connecticut before and had the lights turn green , at least for stretches.

Besides, moving as many cars as fast as possible to make drivers of single occupancy vehicles less stressed isn't the only priority for our roads.

fourthandeye said...

When I drive back from VA/I-66 I follow Constitution Ave all the way to 6th Street NW and take that upto the Triangle. The lights on Sixth Street are generally time very well. But when the jersey barriers around the Obama Transition building (400 block of 6th St) went up they claimed both a parking lane and a lane of traffic. This created a nasty and unbearable bottleneck. So I now go 6th to Indiana then take 5th to the Triangle. Doing that you hit the 4 consecutive reds on 5th every time. That sucks of course, but I still prefer it to the chaos of the 6th St bottleneck. Yet I wonder why the lights can't just be timed a little better...

Cary Silverman said...

There are some stretches that work as they should. Constitution is one. I've also discovered after some time living in Mount Vernon Square that the lights along R Street are very well timed to get across to Dupont Circle. There are areas are unbearable. I'm just wondering if the lights are purposefully timed to stop cars at every light or every other light, or its just a matter of getting them fixed?