November 24, 2006

How YOU can prevent traffic jams...

back when i was working at oracle, i used to have a real commute (note: i say that because i do not have a real commute now, as 1.9 miles doesn't count). after working at oracle for a few weeks, and making the drive back up to san francisco, i started noticing something funny about the traffic: as i approached oracle from the north, there would be a horrific traffic backup every day at the ralston exit, but it wouldn't actually start at the exit, it would start just after the hillsdale exit, which is one north. while heading north home, there would always be a hellacious backup from oracle all the way to the bend left on 101 around burlingame. i started paying attention, as i couldn't figure out why there were these tiny little jams, when there was never an accident. what i discovered one day driving to work early is that there was no traffic around the hillsdale exit until around 8am, when inevitably one idiot merging onto 101 from hillsdale would do something stupid, like slowing to 15mph so he could merge, causing a cavalcade of brake lights behind him. on the same day, i left early for home and realized that the traffic jam from oracle to the burlingame veer left happens because every day (EVERY DAY) some number of morons gets freaked out by this slight left turn and slows down to like 20mph. suddenly everyone thinks king kong is hiding around the corner and they slow down too. an hour later? that moron's mistake turns into me waiting for 20 minutes to get onto the highway. so what's the point? well i started trying to FIGHT the traffic slowdowns by driving slower than other people, but just driving consistently (not hitting the brake lights). i'd have huge gaps in front of me, but intuitively it would help since people behind me would never freak out by seeing red brake lights in front of them, so they wouldn't propagate the "wave." i had no idea if this worked, but i did it every day anyway. well, to my surprise, i saw the following link on (great site by the way, as long as you're a little geeky) today: Traffic Wave Experiments. apparently it actually works! awesome... just thought i'd share. if you've got an ugly commute, you might want to try it. it won't help you, but it'll help those poor saps behind you...



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