Going Slow To Go Fast

This kind of discussion just drives me nuts. The rice thing is so bogus and just shows where the feds with the ramp meters, car pool lanes, etc. I would regularly drive the I35W or E section in Minneapolis over the past 30 years. Congestion was no problem until the downtown decided to supersize their attractions and office buildings instead of allowing natural development in the suburbs. Downtown/developers wanted the tax money and commerce from all the huge office buildings. Then came gridlock because of it. Then a third lane was added and just before it was made a car pool lane, everything was fine again. Then it became a car pool lane and gridlock in the rest of it again. With a bus strike, everything was back to normal. Then buses are back and gridlock again.

Ramps were intended to allow cars and buses to get up to speed but with the ramp meters, you sit in line for ten minutes and then everyone crawls into the driving lane backing up traffic even more. Actually one of the best ways believe it or not is for each car to allow about 5 car lengths in front of them to avoid the slinky effect. Try it sometime-it really works. Might drive aggressive people a little nuts but with 5 car lengths, you don’t have to brake or slow down usually.

To me the idea is unimpeded travel. If you can travel at 70 mph, you limit the time on the road, and thereby increase total road capacity. Reduce the speed and reduce capacity. A dumb curve in the road, a shovel, patrol car, bus crawling up to speed, two highways converging and so on, slows traffic and reduces total capacity.

So take a hard look at inner city development and who is benefitting, wasted money on car pool lanes, large buses slowing the traffic down, and poor design causing roadway restrictions, plus an interchange every block to satisfy development, and thats the cause of congestion. Forget the rice experiments.

@cigroller, I agree with you 100% that it is intended to be a passing lane, but here in Florida Jeb Bush vetoed the bill that would make lane protocol law, so I choose to focus on how people use the lane, not it’s intended designation. I don’t care how many people think it is a passing lane. What concerns me is how people actually behave on the roadways. You can call a secretary an administrative assistant, but if the person has secretarial duties, I still call him a secretary. You can call a truck driver a cargo transport specialist, but to me, he is still a truck driver.

My point is that I am not saying you are wrong and I am right. I am saying that your insistence on calling it a “passing lane” doesn’t make it the only correct term. You can be as rigid as you want, and call it “the left lane” and it wouldn’t make me incorrect in calling it a “fast lane.” You’re just hung up on labels, even if you don’t admit it.

If you would like, I could start addressing you as the Word Police. Please don’t throw me in jail, Mr. Word Policeman! :slight_smile:

@Bing, I think the reason things like this drive you nuts is because you focus on how you want people to behave, not build solutions based on how they already behave.

The reason I like the rice demonstration, and the idea of rolling blockades to slow traffic, is that it takes how people behave, and uses it to our advantage. It’s not punitive. In the end, the government can’t change how people behave, so looking for ways to exploit how we already behave is a new approach, and I appreciate the novelty of outside-the-box thinking. Like it or not, it appears to be working. It might not work elsewhere, but we won’t know that until we try it.

Most of us are curmudgeons who think things should be a certain way, and when someone comes along with a new approach, we reject it out of hand. Are there any open-minded people here anymore?

@Whitey, fair enough then. But every chance I get I’ll yell “PASSING LANE!! NOT ‘fast’ lane” - the choice of term being to denote and emphasize its intended (and best) function. Its just me doing my part for public education to try to make the roadways safer and more efficient :wink:

In Central VA I’d say a majority of traffic does follow the basics and that’s a big reason that traffic does usually flow so well - although there’s plenty of road where you could drive down the center of the roadway for all it matters. But there are just enough - and it only takes a few - traffic obstructors that I generally run into at least some issues on every trip that are caused only by this improper and senseless misuse of lanes - Its probably why its such a pet peeve of mine.

As for the rice thing - as noted I’m with you on liking that one for the congestion zones. Its how I do it - now, if I could only control everyone else…

I’m for anything that works, whether an old idea or a new idea, but I don’t think the current thought process of spending billions on high tech and mass transit is really doing it.

My point on the rice is duh, you block one and pour the other one through, pretty basic. Don’t need federal demonstration to tell me that an unblocked funnel will empty faster than a blocked one. Same as a gas can with a vent tube vs one without.

Human behavior is exactly what I was talking about. That human behavior is not saying drivers are morons but rather very reasonable and responding to various stimulus on the roads. A police car and they slow down, a message board and they slow down, trying to go from zero to 70 in a short distance and merge will slow traffic, slow buses and traffic is blocked, and in each case total capacity of the road is reduced. Lower capacity and the same or increased demand and you have gridlock. Pretty simple concept really.

Instead of punishing people for driving with toll lanes, ramp meters, and so on, they need to emphasize reducing design issues that reduce traffic flow.

@Bing: “My point on the rice is duh, you block one and pour the other one through, pretty basic. Don’t need federal demonstration to tell me that an unblocked funnel will empty faster than a blocked one. Same as a gas can with a vent tube vs one without.”

All I can say is that I live near an area where people accelerate towards a bottleneck (South Florida), so what seems obvious to you and me doesn’t seem to affect how people south of where I live drive their cars.

“That human behavior is not saying drivers are morons but rather very reasonable and responding to various stimulus on the roads.”

Based on how I see people drive in South Florida, I would be on board with “they drive like morons.” (Actually, “A-holes” might be more appropriate.)

Fortunately, I don’t live in South Florida, and people where I live are pretty courteous, but as soon as I cross into South Florida at the Martin County/Palm Beach County line, I see a difference in behavior.

For what it’s worth, I agree that toll lanes and ramp meters are not the answer.

In MD, it is legal to pass on either the left or right. That would make a passing lane on the left unnecessary. As a practical matter, some folks are going so fast that they might as well stay in the left lane if it is a passing lane because there are few cars they won’t pass.

In the morning, I find it easier to pass in the right lane of 4 than the left-most lane. If I do this, I do it quickly, especially if there is an 18-wheeler next to me. The right lane is usually pretty fast, until I find the guy that likes to go 50 in a 65 zone. But all I have to do is wait patiently until an opening on the left comes up and I can pass him, too.

cigroller, I agree 100%!! I like the signs that try to educate people like- KEEP RIGHT EXCEPT TO PASS. It’s the law here and they had a weak attempt at awareness training two years ago. Sadly, no one appears able to read/comprehend/obey most road signs…

shadowfax- you get my vote for best postings! Said it better than I ever could and entertaining to boot.

Avoiding the rush hours, a.m and p.m., has been my best answer to keeping my sanity. And although it would be helpful if businesses took advantage of shadowfax’s suggestion it is unlikely. To deal with the California bedlam I worked my days around getting to work at 6:00 and leaving before 3:00 Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday and from 10:00 'till 6:30 Thursday and Friday. But those hours actually increased my productivity and the productivity of the trucks that I supervised as well.

Yeah I’ve been in south Florida and you have to remember a large portion of these people have come from someplace else where maybe its more of a dog eat dog world. May not be a good population sample.

Well, considering that if I’m driving in the left lane, I’m passing everyone, AND going faster than the traffic in the right lane (would be hard to pass them if I wasn’t), then I guess the terms are pretty much interchangeable. So it’s more a matter of semantics.

No - its not a matter of semantics. You cannot have a “fast” lane and a “slow” lane because fast and slow are relative terms.

Many people drive along in the left lane NOT passing anyone. Sometimes its because there is no one near them in the right lane in which case “fast” now has no meaning because it is a relative term. Sometimes they just ride along side the traffic in the right lane - in which case there is now no “fast” or “slow” at all - because those are relative terms. All that exists in this case is just some idiot obstructing “faster” traffic behind them. The terms “fast” and “slow” are completely relative (oh, did I say that already) - whereas “passing” is not.

Look - this is very basic and fundamental and to multilane, limited access highway design. I have no idea why anyone finds it so difficult or even thinks it makes sense to argue the point. If the left lane is not going to be used primarily for “faster” traffic to pass “slower” traffic then there is no point in actually building the thing at all. Take the tax money and build a nice fountain instead. Then you just get to drive along at whatever speed anyone and everyone in front of you happens to feel like doing while you admire the fountain.

Although - I suppose you can follow Maryland “law” (rather than reason, logic, and roadway design principles) - at which point I guess the multiple lanes just become a free for all. Drive where you feel like. Pass where you feel like. Oh boy does that sound like fun - for a demolition derby.

Maybe you should call it the ‘faster’ lane then. Whatever you care to call it, traffic should be going faster if it’s in the left lane, barring traffic jams, construction, etc. People that occupy the left lane, and are pacing traffic in lanes to the right, or going !slower! are misusing this lane. The way I usually drive, I’m in the left lane a lot, but I’m passing people. If I encounter someone who wants to go faster than me, I get over and let them by before they’re on my bumper. Besides, they make a great decoy for the next speed trap up ahead.

One of my many peeves about other drivers are people that don’t seem to understand this simple piece of etiquette: If you want to go slower, be in the right lane(s). If someone wants to go faster in the left (passing, fast) lane, get out of the way. I suppose my other major peeve is people that put on their turn signal (if at all) as an afterthought, after it’s already abundantly clear that they’re turning—like when they’ve almost stopped in the left turn lane.

I believe the rice funnel effect does apply to human behavior and shows why a full church clears out faster if ushers signal one pew at at time to rise and exit than when everyone just gets up at once and trys to leave.
Perhaps, the answer is for a line of police cars driving at a steady 45 or 50 to “usher” the traffic down the interstate during high traffic volume periods.

Where I drive, the traffic density is at a critical mass, it is moving along but it only takes a surprisingly small occurance to make it grind to a halt. An accident in the opposing lane is enough to trigger it, which is why I’m glad they finally put up a blinder fence in the barrier of I-35 through downtown Austin. Shutting down a single lane almost guarantees gridlock even though two lanes are still open.

A retired DPS trooper explained to me that the passing lane and minimum speed laws only apply to free flowing traffic. During gridlock, there is no such thing as a passing lane. The left lane is needed to help carry the volume of traffic.

I have a question for you guys that think the left lane is only for passing. How does that work on freeways with 6 or more lanes of traffic. If you are on a 10 lane freeway in LA, are you supposed to stay in the right lane only, then move across 4 empty lanes in order to pass someone?

And what do you do when some “idiot” or “self proclaimed traffic cop” decides to get into the left lane and go 55 mph. Your not allowed to pass him/her on the right?

Since I typically drive above the 50th percentile, I spend a lot of time in the left lane, but when someone comes up behind me, I move over as soon as it is practical. When I’m on a freeway during light traffic periods, I still hang in the left lane because it is a lot smoother, the right lanes get very bumpy from the 18 wheelers.

In MA you can pass in any lane on a multi-lane highway or expressway. The far left lane is a passing lane and driving in it blocking through traffic is against the law. Fortunately, the majority of people understand the laws and adhere to them under normal conditions. They are also smart enough to realize the exceptions for rush hour traffic or during backups. Even in rush hour, if someone is behind you and there’s space opening up in front of you- move the h@ll over. It’s not too much to ask that you 1) pay attention and 2) actively drive your vehicle by changing lanes if you are an impediment. That includes the inconvenience of using turn signals.

It only takes a few people with no sense or courtesy to screw it up…

In rush hour traffic, everyone would love to drive faster than the traffic is going. A lot of tailgaters confuse following at a safe distance for going slow.

BLE, I believe you’re right. My elementary school did the same thing. Instead of having all the kids walk out to the buses at the same time, they would release only student who got on particular buses, in stages. Doing it this way allowed them to get all of the children on the buses faster, than if they had just let us all flood the hallways at the same time.

This rice demonstration has been tested with people, and it works just as well as it does when you use rice.

Agreed. It doesn’t matter that drivers are (at least in theory) sentient and grains of rice are not. Even when the individual drivers have free will, the aggregate behavior of the entire mass of them still behaves like the inanimate material. That’s the power of statistics!

The rice funnel effect also has some tragic examples, when a paniced mob causes such a logjam that people can’t effectively escape from a burning theater or concert hall.

A great many people need a flashing roof sign GET OUT OF MY WAY-I’M IMPORTANT. It would inform those of us in the population of unwashed minions to give way to our betters.