Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Henny Penny in New Jersey

The sky is falling!
I was in New York last weekend and one of the big stories there was the partial closure of the Alexander Hamilton Bridge -- for much needed repairs -- which handles most of the traffic coming off the George Washington Bridge into New York City and headed east. The media was publishing frenzied articles about the oncoming traffic catastrophe. All the experts and elected officials were wringing their hands in worry.

The Record:
Predictions of hour-long delays and traffic jams extending for more than 5 miles have police in Bergen County towns along Route 95 on the lookout for spillover traffic. While some communities are taking a wait-and-see approach, others say they will stop through-traffic from turning local roads into parking lots.
The New York Post:
Beginning Saturday night, the construction will back up drivers for an average of five miles into New Jersey on three main routes:  
* On I-80, as far west as Hackensack.
* On the New Jersey Turnpike, as far south as the Vince Lombardi Service Area.
* On the Palisades Parkway, as far north as Route 4.
“It’s crazy. You can’t do this to people!” said Paul Constable, 54, of Beacon, a regular GWB user.
Fort Lee Patch:
This summer could be remembered as a traffic hell by the millions of people who travel east over the George Washington Bridge thanks to the closure of a lane on the oft-congested Cross Bronx Expressway from this Friday through Labor Day.
Funny story: it didn't happen. The New York Times:
As of Sunday afternoon, there were no signs of the traffic Armageddon that many predicted when an extensive construction project closed a lane of the Alexander Hamilton Bridge over the Harlem River.
But maybe the baseball game wasn't enough. Monday was the real test to come.
By 7:20 a.m., fears of a gridlocked George Washington Bridge had yet to materialize, with normal delays on the GWB and other Hudson River crossings into New York, said Bob Glantzberg, operations manager for TRANSCOM, the East Coast traffic information clearinghouse. Traffic on those crossings was on par with most Monday mornings, he said. 
Well, maybe everyone was fearing the worst on Monday and avoided the bridge, right? Fort Lee Patch:
For a second consecutive morning, Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich surveyed the area near the George Washington Bridge, and once again he found, as most rush-hour commuters apparently did, that traffic was moving along normally Tuesday with only minimal delays at worst.
The latest excuse from the Very Serious People is that this is a lightly trafficked time of year, and we will have to wait until September for the disaster to begin. My question instead is: Can we hear a representative from the cult of Traffic "Engineering" come down and say that they were wrong? That they really don't understand how these complex systems work? And that using their so-called "modeling" to alarm the public is nothing more than a ploy to game more taxpayer dollars for needless road expansion and concrete pouring that destroys neighborhoods?



    "The analysis conducted by INRIX revealed that drivers took what the company called a “wait-and-see approach,” initially avoiding the bridge altogether, apparently heeding the many warnings by authorities and reported in the media, and adjusting their routes early last week.

    But by Friday of the first week of the roughly three-month project, drivers were using the bridge again, and that trend is likely to continue, according to INRIX."

    1. Sounds about right. Now that people are less afraid, they will start to fill the bridge up again, until it reaches equilibrium again. Just goes to show how elastic trip decisions are. The volume of trips expands or contracts to meet available supply.

      There has always been and will always be random delays and congestion at the Hudson river crossings. It doesn't mean much. The peak usage of the crossings balances around what's available, and for the next few months, it will balance around one fewer lane.


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