Traffic Waves





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Published on Jul 27, 2008

Main site: http://trafficwaves.org/ Watch at 0:01 to see the fight between "cheaters" versus the "blockers" which causes this exit-lane backup. (The backup shown at 0:01 isn't the worst I've seen at this spot.) ALSO TRY HITTING 0:01 OVER AND OVER REALLY FAST.

The Backpackers' rule: if we leave trash on the trail, then so does everyone else, and the whole environment immediately fills with garbage. But if we pick up our own trash, the garbage piles don't vanish. They just build up more slowly from the many OTHER people who always leave a trail of stuff behind them as they go.

So, if we don't like it, we have to pick up other people's trash as well as our own.

But sometimes, rarely, a little cleanup goes a long way, and one single person can make a huge difference.

During evening rush hour on Seattle I-5, this clogged left lane usually has a 1/2-mile backup. This EXIT-ONLY LANE leads down into the high speed "Express Lanes" under the city. If do you manage to exit here, there's rarely any congestion ahead in the Express Lanes. You might gain 5min! But the exit into those lanes is jammed. And whenever it's jammed, you might lose more time in the jam than you'll gain from getting on to the express lanes.

Also, if you miss getting into the left lane early, then you're screwed, since nobody in the row of ~200 cars will let you in. There is no "zipper merge." Also, merging drivers coming in from righthand ramps are not "cheaters." They never had a chance to get to the back of the line. Yet they're still aggressively blocked by those already in the jam. It's impossible for anyone to tell who is cheating and who is legit, but that doesn't stop people from closing up all gaps. Far down at the downstream end of the jam, just a few aggressive drivers occasionally force their way in (because of the unfair treatment?), yet this nearly halts the exit-lane flow.

BUT ...if I myself refuse to be a tailgater, and instead let ten cars merge ahead of me as I approach the jam, like magic the whole thing evaporates, and everyone takes off at high speed. SOMETIMES! It doesn't work every time. Maybe once a week. Maybe less. But when I don't try this trick, I never see it unjam spontaneously. And when I try this trick on other Seattle jams, it doesn't work. Only certain jams are "sensitive" like this one.

Unfortunately this video can't show you the view from above. Also, you can't see behind me, so you can't see that my "hole" is the only one in a very long row of cars. You can't see that nobody is pulling out and passing me, instead all those merging cars are coming in at high speed from a distance. Also you can't see the size of the reliable daily jam that was there on other days, or the jam ahead of me before I arrived and started draining it down by letting people merge.

Note that letting some cars get ahead of you is NOTHING, it doesn't slow you down, or slow anyone behind you. On a 30min congested commute at 65MPH, 2sec between cars, if you were a slowpoke going 5MPH slower than the rest, how many other cars would pass you? Seventy five! And a gap of 2.5 MILES would open up ahead of you! In other words, slowpokes don't have 10-car gaps like I do, instead their gaps are miles long. Either that or stunningly huge numbers of cars are pulling out to pass, rather than one or two per week like I see. Letting a few (10) cars merge will slow me down *insignificantly*: by 10 to 20sec out of 30min, or less than 1MPH average slowing (64.5MPH, not 65MPH.) Ten cars one way or another is NOTHING, it's way too small to matter. Ten cars is not a real delay, it's a psychological illusion which appears whenever you believe that you're in a race. In a race, a few seconds can mean the difference between winning and losing. But on your commute, a few seconds are irrelevant to your arrival time. If a few seconds genuinely bothers you, then why not change your alarm clock ...and get out of bed TWENTY SECONDS EARLIER! Or if set for five minutes earlier, you'll be able to let a couple hundred cars merge ahead of you without being late to work. :)

Conversely, if you want to drive significantly faster than everyone else, then you need to pass 50-100 other drivers to shorten your commute by just a minute or two. If you only managed to pass a few cars, that's called FAILURE, and your speed wasn't increased enough to matter. Basically, your place in line is meaningless because speed is everything, and unless you're passing hundreds of other cars, your speed is the same as everyone else in the jam.


Note: Trolls & spammers blocked immediately. Zero tolerance.


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