Sunday, January 6, 2013

Driving in D.C.

I found an article in Yahoo news: Top 10 Cities with America’s Worst Drivers. The number one city in 2011 and 2012? Washington, D.C.
Having had three years of experience driving the beltway so I thought I would do my own little “Review of Driving in Various Places I have Lived” starting with D.C.
The D.C. metro area introduced me to concepts like the Metro system, Kiss and Ride, Slugging, High Occupancy Vehicle lanes and one-way lanes that change directions at different times of day. (Big adjustment from rural driving I was used to where the road into the city, while undergoing the traditional road construction season, not fundamentally altering in an “Inception” type of way.)
We lived in Virginia, right by Seven Corners. If, by Seven Corners, you are thinking of quaint little lanes coming together at a turnstile - um no. From Wikipedia: “The roads themselves are not pedestrian-friendly.” To say the least! I would describe this for you but, compared to my next driving requirements, that was a piece of cake.
After two years, we moved to Springfield Virginia which was right outside the “Mixing Bowl”. This is the interchange of Interstate 95, Interstate 395 and Interstate 495 where around half a million cars, per day, rush to get in and out of D.C. I moved the year they started construction so, as an added benefit, there were rotating closures of exits and lanes to maneuver around.
Going from where I was to where I wanted to go, required several multi-lane changes in a brief time period and either a success or a journey down line to the nearest exit and a re-try.
Therefore, to review: small-town girl, number one “America’s Worst Drivers” and one of “America’s 24 Worst Highway Bottlenecks.” I came to one of those rare practical decisions based on physics. I drove a tank (an old Ford Explorer) and, in a collision, large mass beats small mass so I did lots of “just go and they will move” driving.
This actually seems to be the preferential attitude for most congested freeways. Not the “excuse me while I pass all of you waiting patiently in line and then cut ahead”, but the “move your butt to where you need to go so everyone behind you can be about their business” driving.
So what is slugging? (Not to be confused with hitch-hiking.) Slugs are commuters who line up, at designated spots, for a free ride into the city. Drivers, wanting extra passengers and therefore a pass into the HOV lane will match destination with passenger for a one way trip. Expectations for slugging involve minimum conversation and no further commitment.
Fast, efficient, minimum interaction and no commitment - perfect philosophy for most interactions.

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