Washington, DC traffic patterns



  • A week ago I drove from Washington, D.C. out to Mount Vernon in Virginia.  Amazingly I made it on the first try, mostly because I've traveled that part by taxi a dozen times.

    Google map of crossing the Potomac

    (On the map, try getting from southbound on the eastern bank to southbound on the western bank.  Then try getting back.) 

    On the way home I missed my right turn back over the Potomac River.  Who knew you needed to be in the left lane to turn right?!  The roads in the area are a tangle of ribbons converging and diverging in a dozen directions.  I suppose they keep traffic moving smoothly if everybody knows exactly where they need to be.  But miss one lane change and you'll be in another state, with no chance for a U-turn and no guarantee that if you exit that you'll find another road going back the way you came.  

    Rather than risk getting even more lost, I just stayed on the road until I reached a more familiar tangle ten miles away.





  • @AlpineR said:

    Who knew you needed to be in the left lane to turn right?
    We have this on a major road in this city. And if you don't know about it and make the wrong choice it takes about 20 minutes to find a road to take you back.Needless to say it royally pissed me off when I fell for it.

    I'm sure that it all looks great in some civil engineer's plans but really.. WTF?! 



  • When coming through Portland, OR from the north on I-5 the freeway crosses a large bridge (the Marquam) and divides into four lanes in preparation to split off, with the I-5 branch continuing off to the south (i.e., to the left, as you cross the bridge) and the 405 branch going west, then turning north (to the right, as you look at it). However the road actually splits and then braids under itself so that you need to be in the left lanes to get on 405 (i.e., "to the right") and vice versa.

    This seems to be a common practice at large interchanges in the U.S. (not that this one is particularly large). There's probably some obscure engineering reason why it's better to do it that way. 



  • Pffft..  the Greater Boston area laughs at your pathetic "bad traffic".



  • @AlpineR said:

    Who knew you needed to be in the left lane to turn right?! 
     

    You're not from New Jersey then are you? 



  • @morbiuswilters said:

    Pffft..  the Greater Boston area laughs at your pathetic "bad traffic".

     Agreed.  if your not a local driving in boston is next to impossible.   I learned to try by navigating the big dig.



  • Meant to say I learned to drive by navigating the big dig.  edit permission expired before I saw the typo.



  • @morbiuswilters said:

    Pffft..  the Greater Boston area laughs at your pathetic "bad traffic".

    I'm a DC native, and I would have to say the most irritating traffic is that in Texas. I was just in San Antonio, a city whose roads have were designed just to confuse GPS by having as many overpasses on overpasses as can be constructed. Plus, they have no qualms about simply closing a road entirely, because they might consider doing some construction on it later maybe.



  • @bstorer said:

    I'm a DC native, and I would have to say the most irritating traffic is that in Texas. I was just in San Antonio, a city whose roads have were designed just to confuse GPS by having as many overpasses on overpasses as can be constructed. Plus, they have no qualms about simply closing a road entirely, because they might consider doing some construction on it later maybe.

    I love driving in Texas.  You can do 90 on all of the Interstates and it's so open.  The "on ramps" that just sort of merge in are a WTF and I did encounter a road that intersected with the Interstate somewhere way outside of Dallas, which I think violates Federal Interstate requirements.  Some parts of downtown Dallas are insane because left-turns require you to cross 4 lanes of traffic without a light, so it's pretty much just a matter of stomping the gas and praying.  Dallas drivers were bit a insane, but no worse than NYC drivers or your average Masshole.  I love Houston's stacked freeways, 5-high in some places.  Also, you need to learn to use a map instead of this damn GPS shit.  That is all.



  • Hook turns, as they are known in Australia, are comon in Melbourne, and there are a few in Adelaide. They are used for to reasons. Firstly, if you have trams in the middle of the road, then  this improves visibility's for turning across the traffic. Secondly, this allows long vehicles (in particular articulated busses) to turn where the road would otherwise not be wide enough. 



  • @morbiuswilters said:

    Also, you need to learn to use a map instead of this damn GPS shit.

    Luddite. Maybe I should use a horse-drawn carriage instead of a car, too? If I get lost on my way to the airport, I'll just call someone on my wireless telegraph and ask for directions; I wouldn't want to be late for my dirigible!



  • To the OP:  Jus think George Washington got across on his first attempt, although he didn't have to come back I suppose :) 

    @morbiuswilters said:

    I love driving in Texas.  You can do 90 on all of the Interstates and it's so open.  The "on ramps" that just sort of merge in are a WTF and I did encounter a road that intersected with the Interstate somewhere way outside of Dallas, which I think violates Federal Interstate requirements.  Some parts of downtown Dallas are insane because left-turns require you to cross 4 lanes of traffic without a light, so it's pretty much just a matter of stomping the gas and praying.  Dallas drivers were bit a insane, but no worse than NYC drivers or your average Masshole.  I love Houston's stacked freeways, 5-high in some places.  Also, you need to learn to use a map instead of this damn GPS shit.  That is all.

     2nded.  In college drove from MO to TX to see my sister @ A&M.  I have a bit of a lead foot anyway, but as a guy driving with out of state tags, I tried to obey the speed limit so that I didn't draw attention to myself.  Till I hit Dallas.  That's when Ford Expeditions, and trucks with duellies were blowing by while I was doing 80-85.  So I stepped it up and kept pace with them at around 90+

     The other great thing about TX is once you're off the interstate and you're going down some state hwy that's only 2 lane, they make the shoulders extra wide and slower people actually maintain speed and move on the shoulder to let you pass!  That was a nice surprise

     



  • @bstorer said:

    @morbiuswilters said:
    Also, you need to learn to use a map instead of this damn GPS shit.

    Luddite. Maybe I should use a horse-drawn carriage instead of a car, too? If I get lost on my way to the airport, I'll just call someone on my wireless telegraph and ask for directions; I wouldn't want to be late for my dirigible!

     

     

    Let's compromise

     




  • @bstorer said:

    Luddite. Maybe I should use a horse-drawn carriage instead of a car, too? If I get lost on my way to the airport, I'll just call someone on my wireless telegraph and ask for directions; I wouldn't want to be late for my dirigible!

    Well, you Virginians insist on using black slave laborers to pick your cotton even though mechanized farm equipment has proven far more efficient and ethical.  I figured you guys hadn't quite figured out the whole "auto-mobile" thing yet.

     

    P.S. Dirigibles are cool.  Fuck you.



  • @morbiuswilters said:

    Well, you Virginians insist on using black slave laborers to pick your cotton even though mechanized farm equipment has proven far more efficient and ethical.  I figured you guys hadn't quite figured out the whole "auto-mobile" thing yet.

    Oh, come on! We officially apologized for slavery last year. Do we have to keep bringing it up?



  • @bstorer said:

    @morbiuswilters said:
    Well, you Virginians insist on using black slave laborers to pick your cotton even though mechanized farm equipment has proven far more efficient and ethical.  I figured you guys hadn't quite figured out the whole "auto-mobile" thing yet.

    Oh, come on! We officially apologized for slavery last year. Do we have to keep bringing it up?

    Only until you come out of the dark ages and accept that technology isn't a sin in the eyes of god.



  • My rule of thumb is that anytime you go somewhere new in Northern Virginia, you should add 20-30 minutes of getting-lost-time.



  • By the wya do you have mazes of one way streets.  boston is chock full of em. I hate the damn things



  • @galgorah said:

    By the wya do you have mazes of one way streets.  boston is chock full of em. I hate the damn things

    Do we have one-way streets? Ha! We have one-way streets that change which way they run during the day -- and they always change to be against the traffic flow. Also, if you're ever in DC, and someone tells you DC is simple because it's set out on a grid, I want you to ask them directions to 4th & D, and when they ask you which one you're talking about -- because there are four of them, kick them and run.



  • We don't have too many of the ones that change during specific times of the day.  however we do have multiple streets with the same name and streets that stop in one place and start up again in other.



  • The roads that have always made me wonder are what we euphemistically call "meat grinders".  For those who don't know what it is, picture this:

    A high speed road has an exit from it to a lower speed road.  The entrance from the lower-speed road shares a few hundred feet of the same roadway as that exit to get onto the high speed road.  These are generally located on cloverleaf interchanges, although not always.  Described more accurately, you have accelerating traffic sharing a lane with deccelerating traffic and having to cross through each other somehow to get where they're going.  I want to know what highway engineer thought that was ever a good idea so I can slap him with a herring.



  • @jetcitywoman said:

    I want to know what highway engineer thought that was ever a good idea so I can slap him with a herring.

    The kind that works for the government. Weaving lanes are often the cheapest way to build an overpass intersection.



  • @jetcitywoman said:

    The roads that have always made me wonder are what we euphemistically call "meat grinders".  For those who don't know what it is, picture this:

    A high speed road has an exit from it to a lower speed road.  The entrance from the lower-speed road shares a few hundred feet of the same roadway as that exit to get onto the high speed road.  These are generally located on cloverleaf interchanges, although not always.  Described more accurately, you have accelerating traffic sharing a lane with deccelerating traffic and having to cross through each other somehow to get where they're going.  I want to know what highway engineer thought that was ever a good idea so I can slap him with a herring.

    Many Massachusetts state highways don't have merge lanes.  The on-ramps drop directly into traffic at 60+ MPH.  I almost killed some people the first time I encountered this.  Ditto for: roundabouts, 7-way intersections and mandatory U-turns (not only legal in MA, but necessary to get many places..) 



  • @morbiuswilters said:

    P.S. Dirigibles are cool.
    Diribibles FTW!  Also, in Soviet Russia, left lanes turn you!!!



  •  Hey - without traffic patterns like this I would never have got to visit Boston (ie got motorway lost somewhere between Maine and NYC and took an accidental side trip into Boston on the way).. can you believe. Driving with my old mate from Maine - the kinda person who thinks a couple of hours out of your way is .. well a couple hours either way no big deal to this guy. (He wasn't much like all the folks in NYC anyway).



  • @Eternal Density said:

    in Soviet Russia, left lanes turn you!!!
    Awesome.  I actually lolled.



  • @morbiuswilters said:

    Pffft..  the Greater Boston area laughs at your pathetic "bad traffic".

    Spoken like someone who never actually had to drive in DC. There are circles and squares everywhere, Many of the major roads run at 30% angles to the "normal" grid, the traffic lights are set off to the side of the intersection (god forbid you're in the center lane between 2 semi) and the city is divided into 4 quadrants. So if you want to find someplace, you not only need to know the address, please don't forget to find out if it is NW, NE, SW or SE or you ;may never get where you are going. Even then there is no sure thing, since the road you are on now may disappear at any time, and finding it again is damn near impossible. Not to mention the lack of signs anywhere. You will be fine for a while, and all of a sudden you realize that you haven't seen a sign for a few blocks and wonder if you missed it, or if there even was one. And I know the road the OP talked about crossing the Potomac. Heading south on I295 it is fairly easy to get to south I395 on the VA side of the river, but if you are heading north on I395, youi have to get off at Pennsylvania Ave, cross the river, then make a left onto the ramp for I295 north.

     

    Or course TX isn't much better, what with roads like E I-35N  and W-I35N. sure they head the same general direction but you really don't want to get on the wrong one or you will add quite a bit of time and distance to your trip.



  • @SomebodyElse said:

    @morbiuswilters said:

    Pffft..  the Greater Boston area laughs at your pathetic "bad traffic".

    Spoken like someone who never actually had to drive in DC. There are circles and squares everywhere, Many of the major roads run at 30% angles to the "normal" grid, the traffic lights are set off to the side of the intersection (god forbid you're in the center lane between 2 semi) and the city is divided into 4 quadrants. So if you want to find someplace, you not only need to know the address, please don't forget to find out if it is NW, NE, SW or SE or you ;may never get where you are going. Even then there is no sure thing, since the road you are on now may disappear at any time, and finding it again is damn near impossible. Not to mention the lack of signs anywhere. You will be fine for a while, and all of a sudden you realize that you haven't seen a sign for a few blocks and wonder if you missed it, or if there even was one. And I know the road the OP talked about crossing the Potomac. Heading south on I295 it is fairly easy to get to south I395 on the VA side of the river, but if you are heading north on I395, youi have to get off at Pennsylvania Ave, cross the river, then make a left onto the ramp for I295 north.

     

    Or course TX isn't much better, what with roads like E I-35N  and W-I35N. sure they head the same general direction but you really don't want to get on the wrong one or you will add quite a bit of time and distance to your trip.

    Boston is like a vortex.  easy to get into but very hard to get out of. You often cannot get back on main roads (storrow drive, I93, etc) where you got off of them.  to get back on you'll sometimes need to drive across town. 


  • What's a "30% angle"? Is that like 108 degrees or something?

    I have driven through D.C. many times, and while it is sheer madness, it is predictably chaotic at times, almost zen-like. A dozen missed turns later, I always seem to accidentally arrive at my destination by way of sheer chance. Of course, you have the ancient D.C. driving koan: if my sister gives me directions to her place in Columbia Heights, will I always arrive there whether I follow them or not?

    No. I will be shot.



  • big dig umm yaa. this one one of the nicer phases of the big dig for a driver in boston.



  •  Another typical sign during the big dig hey day



  • This totally reminded me of a WTF I experienced in the early 90s, although it is not a story about big city traffic.

    I am on my way to Dallas (I-10?) and get to Las Cruces, NM. I have to exit to get gas. There are 4 exits into Las Cruces. I take the first one and fill up. I head back to where I exited and... oh, there's no onramp. No problem, I will drive on a parallel road and take the next onramp. I get there and... uh-oh the onramp is closed for construction. Fine. I head to the next exit... no onramp. I am starting to realize why there are actually people living in this town in the middle of the New Mexico desert... they exited and couldn't find their way back out of town! Finally after about 30 minutes more of driving through the barrio trying to find a way to get back on the freeway, the fourth exit has an onramp... [sarcasm] Of course by that time, it is almost time to full up my tank again [/sarcasm].



  •  @jpaull said:

    I am on my way to Dallas (I-10?) and get to Las Cruces, NM. I have to exit to get gas. There are 4 exits into Las Cruces. I take the first one and fill up. I head back to where I exited and... oh, there's no onramp. No problem, I will drive on a parallel road and take the next onramp. I get there and... uh-oh the onramp is closed for construction. Fine. I head to the next exit... no onramp. I am starting to realize why there are actually people living in this town in the middle of the New Mexico desert... they exited and couldn't find their way back out of town!
    Here in Athens we joined the age of the super highway a few years back and built one that runs through the suburbs and beyond. Of course like everything else in this country it was built only to the point where it was functional. A couple of years back I had to get on this highway to get to an expo in the middle of nowhere. I missed my exit so I took the next one and figured I'd drive back on the parallel road... until after a few blocks it turned to gravel... and then simply stopped. No dead-end signs, no warnings, they just run out of road. WTF. Had to reverse and try my luck through the winding sidestreets. It's a good thing we have plenty of mountains here cause they come in handy as reference points for navigation. Took me 20 minutes to find a way back to the exit I should have taken.

     

    @jpaull said:

    By the wya do you have mazes of one way streets.  boston is chock full of em. I hate the damn things
    In this country we have a solution for idiotic one-way streets. We drive on them the wrong way.



  • @DOA said:

    @jpaull said:

    By the wya do you have mazes of one way streets.  boston is chock full of em. I hate the damn things
    In this country we have a solution for idiotic one-way streets. We drive on them the wrong way.

    The real WTF is that you quoted me and attributed it to another user. :P



  • @galgorah... I think said:

    The real WTF is that you quoted me and attributed it to another user. :P
    Oops. I blame the streets. They confuse me.



  • @galgorah said:

    umm yaa. this one one of the nicer phases of the big dig for a driver in boston.

    Nuke it from orbit and start over! Seriously -- that's just a sick mess.



  • @AbbydonKrafts said:

    @galgorah said:
    umm yaa. this one one of the nicer phases of the big dig for a driver in boston.
    Nuke it from orbit and start over! Seriously -- that's just a sick mess.

     My first time behind the wheel I had to drive through that.  Trial by fire I guess



  • Suddenly, I'm quite appreciative of Spokane's sensible road layout. Everything except Northwest Boulevard and the freeway are on a north-south, east-west grid. Yes, there are one-way streets, but they're always paired so you can treat them as a single road with an extra-wide median.



  •  Here's some of my "favorite" Boston-area roads/interchanges via google maps (I'd link up nice, but forum doesn't seem to work well in FF):

    Where Route 2 turns into smaller roads: 

     Here's the result of the "nicer phase of the big dig" above:

    Some more retardity at the end of Storrow / Soldier's Field. Note: sports field is part of Haaaahvaahhhd:

    http://maps.google.com/maps?f=q&hl=en&geocode=&q=boston,+ma&ie=UTF8&ll=42.372361,-71.131089&spn=0.00428,0.010418&t=k&z=17 

     

    Good times. There's plenty more to be found, these I just found in a couple of minutes on google maps, because I drive through them.  



  • @EJ_ said:

     Here's some of my "favorite" Boston-area roads/interchanges via google maps (I'd link up nice, but forum doesn't seem to work well in FF):

    Works fine for me with FF2 under Linux.  Or you could just enter the HTML manually using the handy "HTML" button.  Also, none of your URLs actually worked anyway, they just all drop you on top of Gov't Center. 



  • @morbiuswilters said:

    Also, none of your URLs actually worked anyway, they just all drop you on top of Gov't Center. 
     

    Yup. The "&q=boston,+ma" makes google maps jump to the street view popup. Works fine without that parameter.



  • @EJ_ said:

     Here's some of my "favorite" Boston-area roads/interchanges via google maps (I'd link up nice, but forum doesn't seem to work well in FF):

    Where Route 2 turns into smaller roads: 

    http://maps.google.com/maps?f=q&hl=en&geocode=&q=boston,+ma&ie=UTF8&ll=42.397843,-71.141265&spn=0.002139,0.005209&t=k&z=18

     Here's the result of the "nicer phase of the big dig" above:

    http://maps.google.com/maps?f=q&hl=en&geocode=&q=boston,+ma&ie=UTF8&ll=42.346492,-71.060236&spn=0.008564,0.020835&t=k&z=16

    Some more retardity at the end of Storrow / Soldier's Field. Note: sports field is part of Haaaahvaahhhd:

    http://maps.google.com/maps?f=q&hl=en&geocode=&q=boston,+ma&ie=UTF8&ll=42.372361,-71.131089&spn=0.00428,0.010418&t=k&z=17 

    Good times. There's plenty more to be found, these I just found in a couple of minutes on google maps, because I drive through them.  

     

    I pass through all those places at least a few times a week.  And at least one or two of them a day



  • Damn... I even copy/pasted the "link to this page" link in google maps... I thought that would grab a link to what you were looking at? Oh well.

     

    When I click the HTML button, it opens a blank window with the title "{$lang_theme_code_title}". This forum software seems clunky.



  • @EJ_ said:

    When I click the HTML button, it opens a blank window with the title "{$lang_theme_code_title}". This forum software seems clunky.

    Are you running NoScript?  The forum software isn't great, but there are no major compatibility problems. 



  • @EJ_ said:

    This forum software seems clunky.
     

    TRWTF is the user.



  •  This is why I take the T or walk everywhere in Boston.  I'd shoot myself if I had to drive around.



  • (On the map, try getting from southbound on the eastern bank to southbound on the western bank. Then try getting back.)

    Here's the map that google gives me for the first. Going back, it wants me to take the other bridge - probably a smart choice, all things considered - but if I force it to take the same bridge it uses for the first, here's the result



  • The British laugh at your "sensible" town planning.

     Presenting the Magic Roundabout, Swindon, UK.

    A roundabout, circled by 5 smaller roundabouts. Now with added traffic lights!

    (schematic)



  •  Agreed. And grids are boring!

    Traffic WTFs I know of...

    Morning rush hour in Cambridge (England): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XA_Crc67SAM

    Bus snarl-up due to a fire I think: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jnIeIZeLUno

    Most of the roads are such that if there's a fire engine or ambulance stopped, it's blocked. With no viable diversion.

    Also the Sainsbury's in town...the lorries (trucks to you Americians) have about 3 inches of clearance to get in and out of the driveway. Often completely blocks the road - for EVERYONE, even bikes and pedestrians - for several minutes :-@

    Then to drive between some places requires you to take a dumbass route, cos of all the one-ways and rising bollards.

    Watch out for cyclists ignoring the one way system. Riding towards you in the middle of the road not giving way. At night. Wearing black. Without any lights. And drunk.

    Plenty of roads that are two-way, but too narrow for vehicles to pass without mounting the pavement.

    Contraflow cycle lane on otherwise one-way Downing/Pembroke Street, who's idea was that?


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