April 22, 2009
Is it that bogged down already?
As we know, the long-awaited Katy Freeway managed lanes opened this weekend. This story about its first day of rush-hour operation gives it positive reviews, but what interests me is this:
[Lisa Castaneda, a transportation engineer for the Harris County Toll Road Authority] spent the morning rush observing from the westernmost toll plaza, near Eldridge. She said the regular lanes had an average speed of about 20 mph, but the toll and HOV lanes were moving along at 60 mph.
"It seems that people got their money's worth if they chose that," Castañeda said.
Twenty miles an hour? We spent $2.8 billion adding all those lanes and six months after the grand opening
traffic was that slow already? I mean, I expected it to bog down eventually, but not that quickly. Help me out here, commuters. Is this really how things are? Thanks.
Posted by Charles Kuffner on April 22, 2009 to Planes, Trains, and Automobiles
Traffic still backs up some that far out, especially right around the Beltway 8 ramps. AND there are often wrecks at Eldridge/Dairy Ashford--not sure why. But it does slow things down further.
All that said, as soon as you get past the Beltway interchange, it's pretty darned zoomy. If I get on the freeway at Wilcrest (scooting under the interchange), my 10-mile commute (including neighborhood driving) is now 15-17 minutes, where pre-construction it was often 40 minutes. And this morning I'll be to co-op (16 miles?) in 20 minutes if I hit the Studemont to Allen Parkway light right.
Hey, the paying customers are fine. It's just the proles and the cheapskates moving at 20 mph. ;-)
Seriously, I'm reminded that the 59/610 interchange was at 110% of expected capacity a week after it was originally built. If you build it, they will not only come, but overcompensate in anticipation.
When I would drive from the north side of town to school (or would be driven as a child) in the late 70's and early 80's, it took 45 minutes to an hour for a commute that took 20 - 30 minutes normally. It hasn't really changed despite the increase in population, so I guess that's progress.
Traffic studies show that more lanes don't mean faster commute. Drivers that were using side roads before, or staggering their driving times, are now tempted to use the new big highway. The only thing that reduces traffic are alternate methods of travel. Read the very entertaining "Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do and What It Says About Us" by Tom Vanderbilt.
Interesting tidbit from the book: traffic jams date back to ancient Rome, where things got so bad that Caesar banned carts and chariots in the city until after 3:00pm.
The new Katy is pretty darned good if you are going the opposite way of rush-hour traffic. Although virtually nobody uses the toll lanes at these times - why would they? The main lanes are going 70 mph+.