"Aberrant Behaviour" Episode: Merging


#1

Great show, but I can’t agree with “where Brian’s merging strategy is incredibly efficient, and also incredibly rude”. The first comment is correct, but Tom and Ray implied that it was only for the benefit of Brian. Brian was proposing a “zipper merge”, which is exactly how it’s done over here in Europe, and also how most states are now recommending lane closures should be handled. The “late” merge, with both lanes being fully used and merging occurring in an alternating fashion right at the merge point, is massively more efficient for all drivers and prevents larger traffic jams, so it’s actually quite the opposite of rude if everyone plays along. It’s very egalitarian. The problem is educating people and getting them to reject their long-standing beliefs. I grew up in Canada and would have also been irritated back then by a “late” merger who was “barging” into line. Once you understand how it helps the whole situation, you really take a different, almost Zen-like attitude.

And I think that’s something that our two favourite Car Talk guys could appreciate. :slight_smile:


#2

Well, sadly, one of them can no longer appreciate it…


#3

No offence meant; I’m well aware of that but the comment was meant as an appreciation of Tom and Ray’s special outlook on life.


#4

Agree 100%…load both lanes to the merge point and zipper together. No one gets mad; all on the same schedule. I’ve seen semis pacing in the “clear” lane to try and cause this, but mostly to no avail.


#5

Doing the “zipper” merge is only better if it starts that way. If there is already a long line of cars in the right lane, going past in the left lane and forcing your way in is NOT more efficient and IS rude.


#6

I just got back from a road trip and I got caught in a freeway closing in Austin. The whole freeway was closed down to drop a damaged bridge so all three lanes were trying to merge into one off ramp. It took over two hours and I had gotten caught only about two miles back from the closing, it was very heavy traffic at the time so a two mile back up took less than three minutes. If only I hadn’t stopped for gas.


#7
Brian was proposing a "zipper merge", which is exactly how it's done over here in Europe, and also how most states are now recommending lane closures should be handled.

Unfortunately that’s not how it’s practiced. In MA…merge lane means zoon ahead of everyone in the other lane and cut them off. If people merging don’t wait to zipper move in…they all try to squeeze as many vehicles into the other lane. It’s a free-for-all.


#8
Doing the "zipper" merge is only better if it starts that way. If there is already a long line of cars in the right lane, going past in the left lane and forcing your way in is NOT more efficient and IS rude.
Well...it's more efficient for YOU! I can't control all the other drivers; I can only control myself. I'll do the zipper merge (usually, or just early merge if I'm chill and have excess time). Late merging isn't rude, per se, but it is "bold"--and fortune favors the bold (with a few notable exceptions).

#9
Late merging isn't rude, per se, but it is "bold"--and fortune favors the bold (with a few notable exceptions).

That’s your opinion. I’ve seen several accidents caused by late mergers forcing the cars in the other lane to get out of their way.


#10

^Well, then “forcing” (I.e. violation of ROW) is the problem, NOT employing a superior merging technique explicity preferred by many states (including my own.)


#11
^Well, then "forcing" (I.e. violation of ROW) is the problem, NOT employing a superior merging technique explicity preferred by many states (including my own.)

In order for late merging to work…then everyone needs to be on the same page…not some lone wolf speeding up to the very end and then deciding to merge in. Zipper merging is done very successfully in other parts of the country…but New England (especially MA) it’s not. The first 5 cars may start to merge in…that just tells the Masshole driver to speed up around them and merge in at the very end.


#12

MA is a special place. It’s where you have two lanes merging into one and the guy beside you snugs up tight to the car in front, blocking the other guy from merging in. It makes no sense, you just got one car ahead but still idling in the very slow moving line. You won! Now you can feel like a winner even though you’re just a jerk. I want to get a bumper sticker that says “Alternate Masshole!” or perhaps “Envision Waiting” maybe tack on Patiently or Your turn…


#13

The benefits of zipper merging:


#14

As I said there’s theory and what actually happens…In MA and NH when there’s a lane closure…traffic is backed up for miles. It becomes a free-for-all.


#15

The “problem” with the whole zipper lane concept is, as others have mentioned, that it ISN’T an accepted “standard”. As of right now, it’s the law in WA and MN. If the State isn’t willing to step up and make it the law then we’ll continue to have people that don’t use it.

I have no idea where the OP gets the info that most States are now recommending it. Right now as things currently sit, if you try to force the zipper merge, you can be ticketed for an unsafe merge.

This is the reason we have traffic laws. If everyone just decides to do whatever THEY think is “most efficient”, we’d have total chaos.


#16

Aren’t most traffic conflicts based on conflicting personalities of drivers? Should a driver who makes great efforts to plan ahead and moves into a slower lane of traffic in anticipation of approaching a loss of a lane watch other drivers continue on totally oblivious of the situation and then, when they are at the end of the disappearing lane they expect the thoughtful drivers to allow them to move in ahead of them. I usually do allow the “important people” to cut in but not always. It’s sometimes entertaining to see the self indulgent go mentally ballistic as cars move past them while they wait.


#17

I would posit that it’s the thoughtful drivers that attempt to fill the lanes and then zipper.


#18

Here in San Jose Calif, there is no empty merge lane. Every lane including the merge lane is filled all the way from the back of the traffic jam to the bottleneck. I’d guess if folks merged earlier, rather than waiting to merge right at the bottleneck, the overall traffic flow rate on the road would improve. But that’s not going to happen, and I doubt it would improve much.


#19

GeorgeSanJose - That’s not how traffic flow works. The number of cars going through the bottleneck remains constant, regardless of the merging behavior that occurs prior to it. Filling all the lanes and then merging courteously, one lane at a time, results in a fair and orderly flow. You will get through the traffic jam just as fast by using all lanes prior to the merge (as opposed to everyone squeezing into one lane for miles back). It just feels slower. The advantage to using all lanes is that nobody can race up the empty lane to cut everyone off, thereby slowing all the “honest” people down.

Everyone on this board complaining about people racing up the empty lane, or wanting to block them, doesn’t understand traffic flow and human behavior.

By the way, I once cheered as a state trooper pulled over a guy who was “blocking” traffic from flowing in the open lane during a construction merge. As I passed by he was yelling at the offender though his externally speaker to “pull over. You are obstructing traffic”.


#20

Further to my post above, everyone should read this article that is backed by real research and shows that zipper merging is MUCH more efficient than early merging. It also talks about how resistant people are to the concept.