There is probably nothing more frustrating, or expensive, than driving a car in New York state.
Thankfully, in about every job I have ever had as an adult, I miss the wretched a.m. and p.m. peak travel times each day. I’m willing to guess the other drivers are thankful I miss it too because I can be a jerk when stuck in traffic. Not aggressive or reckless, just a jerk. For example, if I am waiting to get onto the Northway heading up Alternate Rte. 7 and someone tries to zip by the 100 cars waiting and nose in front of me, fists could fly … and many a middle fingers have.
By and large, though, it has generally flown under my radar but it is one of those things everyone seems to talk about. Like the weather. “But first, traffic and weather …” can be seen or heard on any television news or talk radio news broadcast.
It’s an odd dichotomy, traffic is. Everyone driving a car wants to get from Point A to Point B in the quickest possible manner. That means the roads have to have room to accommodate enough cars going at least the speed limit. But the better the roads, the more people will take them and the more congested they will get.
That said, I’m convinced that if you do actually go the speed limit on a road like the Northway you’re a hazard. When is the last time you tried to drive 30 mph. Honestly, it’s about impossible.
Getting to Point B is the objective for most drivers, but the faster cars go, the more dangerous it is for everyone else on the road.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, in 2017 there were 9,717 people killed in speed related automobile crashes, 26 percent of all traffic fatalities. It’s actually down a bit. Over the last 20 years, speed related crashes accounted for a third of the fatalities on our roadways.
Oddly, one of the most common excuses given for speeding and other forms of aggressive driving is traffic congestion. Maybe it’s not so odd if you think about it. When I’m stuck in traffic I do become a jerk, and so do a lot of other people. Them more than me, of course.
Running late is the next most common excuse for being a jerk on the road, and traffic congestion is an oft heard excuse for tardiness at Point B.
Eliminate congestion, traffic goes faster. Speed kills. See the dilemma.
By and large, the Capital District doesn’t have a lot of traffic when compared to places like New York City or Los Angeles. I know, it’s like saying the cold snap we get every February isn’t as bad as the Arctic Circle but it really isn’t so bad outside of a few hours a day.
Seriously, though, outside of a few hours a day, “rush hour” in the morning and the afternoon, traffic isn’t too bad around these parts and even when it is bad it’s only bad in a few spots.
Albany Shaker Road is one of them and the Town of Colonie and Albany County paid an engineering firm thousands of dollars to come up with, after more than a year, some cutting-edge ideas like putting in a left hand turn lane at The Crossings. Odds are a few million drivers stuck behind a car trying to make that left beat them to that idea.
The only way to truly fix traffic on Albany Shaker Road is to make it a four lane road. It’s impossible, of course, but it has been a major, regional thoroughfare between Albany and Colonie since the 1700s. The fact there is traffic now should come as no surprise to anyone.
The town can keep a check on development in the area so traffic doesn’t get more congested, but according to raw data generated by Creighton Manning, it hasn’t gotten any worse from Route 155 to the Albany line in the last two decades. I know, a hard sell, but I have no reason to doubt the raw data.
The idea of making room for bicyclists on busy roads is another dumb idea crystallizing right now on Delaware Avenue with the so called “Road Diet.”
In Delmar, they actually want to cut the number of travel lanes from two in each direction from Elsmere to the Albany line to one lane, add a turning lane and make lanes for bikes.
Having been headed into Albany, and stuck behind a “jerk” trying to take a left hand turn while other “jerks” whiz by on my right, I totally agree with the concept of having a left hand turning lane.
A decent concept, though, doesn’t lead to good practice, especially given how badly the last project on Delaware Avenue went. After a few drops of rain, a canoe would be better than a car in some spots.
The great majority of people, who get from Point A to Point B are doing so in cars and, as I mentioned, want to traverse that route in the quickest possible manner. Making a four lane, heavily trafficked road into two lanes with a turning lane will not help that objective. Actually, it will do little but further inconvenience the great majority of people and all the businesses along the way too.
If people — “jerks” — would just take lefts where they are supposed to, where the double yellow line breaks, instead of when they want, things would go a lot smoother. Or maybe widen the road on each side to make a common turning lane, or maybe ban left hand turns all together and a build traffic circle on each end of the stretch so people can swing it around and make a right hand turn into wherever they want to go.
More expensive than a Band-Aid, no doubt, but more effective too.
Traffic is a fact of life because we do love our cars. We pay good money for them, and then good money for mandated insurance and taxes and good money for gas to keep them going. And now, thanks to Gov. Andrew Cuomo, we have to pay for new license plates.
If we really wanted to alleviate traffic we would mandate car pools and/or promote mass transportation. Next time you are stuck in traffic take a look at all the people driving alone all headed in the same direction, and probably all yelling at each other.
A CDTA pass is looking better and better.
Jim Franco can be reached at 518-878-1000 or [email protected]