Tuesday, February 5, 2008

The two-hour snow delay cluster-*%$#

Is anyone else wondering why LANS, the LA School District, and County can't come up with a better way to get people to work/school on snowy days? For two days in a row, there has been a massive traffic snarl as everyone tries to get into Los Alamos at exactly the same time. One would think that the finest scientific minds in America could do better....why not try a staggered-start, for Pete's sake...

After seeing traffic backed up to Conoco Hill, I decided to go re-warm the last bit of coffee and post the Sheldon piece. An hour working late makes more sense than developing high blood pressure.


Scott said...

"Is anyone else wondering why LANS, the LA School District, and County can't come up with a better way to get people to work/school on snowy days?"

Khal what makes you think that they think it's their responsibility?

How about the citizens of Los Alamos find a more intelligent way to get to work than all driving single-occupant vehicles FROM the same place TO the same place ALL at the same time?

If everyone would double up on snow days there would be no traffic jam. Heck all you have to do is go stand out by Diamond and someone will _offer_ you a ride. (Aside: Such informal ride sharing, or "slugging" is the latest phenomena in areas where the ability to use HOV lanes is a big bonus to travel time.)

I decided to walk today, which takes 35 minutes, but that's better than yesterday, where I rode the bus and it still took 35 minutes.

We have sown the seeds of the auto-centric transportation system and now we reap the (occasional) traffic jam.

Maybe $200 oil will staunch demand?

Khal said...

Since the county and LANL employ traffic management people, they have taken it on themselves. Sure, others can make independent decisions as well.

Scott said...

Well, the county traffic management has no authority over school and lab delays.

Do the LANL traffic management people have any mandate to manage traffic off of lab property?

Scott said...

Khal I guess what got me going in the first comment was the tone of your post that you expect some grand government/corporate decision making outcome to solve this type of problem.

My point is that individuals have the power to help solve this problem by acting cooperatively. However, if we all just act in our own self-interest, then we are all stuck in a traffic jam. Sort of a version of the classic prisoner's dilemma.

Khal said...

The last time I spoke with (LANL Traffic Engineeer) Charlie Trask we discussed two things. One was staggering the start of work. The other was Charlie's getting cooperation between LANL Traffic Engineer and the County Traffic Division to ensure that when there is a two-hour delay, the lights along Diamond Drive are optimized for the heavy but late peak load. That was supposed to have been done. So there is in fact cooperation for snow delays and people are in fact thinking about mitigating the mess.

I would think it was acting in one's self interest to avoid sitting in a traffic jam. Perhaps a letter to the LANL newsletter suggesting that next time there is a delay, everyone try (in advance) to find someone to ride in with to maximize ride-sharing. LANL could actually help by adding a snow-delay ridepool list to the Commuter's Corner.

Scott said...

"That was supposed to have been done."

Maybe it (the light synchronization) was done and it just wasn't enough help? And as for staggered-starting, I wouldn't count on it. How would that work with report pay and all. Half of you get 2 hours report pay and half have to work those two hours?

Folks in DC have been pushing the Feds to go to staggered work schedules to spread our their horrendous peak commuting crunches, but nothing has ever happened there as far as I know.

"I would think it was acting in one's self interest to avoid sitting in a traffic jam. "

Khal, old friend, now you are making me chuckle. Self-interest dictates that I go where I want, when I want, under my own control. That's why the single-occupant vehicle is so popular as a mode of transport.

"Perhaps a letter to the LANL newsletter suggesting that next time there is a delay, everyone try (in advance) to find someone to ride in with to maximize ride-sharing. LANL could actually help by adding a snow-delay ridepool list to the Commuter's Corner."

Now THAT is an excellent suggestion, but of course we still have a long way to go to get people to think outside of the box on the subject of personal transport. "Your idea will not work for me because [insert reason here]"

Khal said...

"Self-interest dictates that I go where I want, when I want, under my own control."

Exactly my point, Scott. In a traffic jam, the following applies:

one is often going nowhere the slow way

the timing ("when")is at the mercy of the traffic glut, and

what happens from one minute to the next is at the mercy of the pack, since you are trapped in the pack.

Thus, the need to have people work at avoiding the jam.

One of the reasons I always preferred my bike to mass transit or the single-occupant car in Hawaii was the big three: I could come and go as I pleased, under my own control, and if there was a traffic jam, I could almost always work around it. Main reason I was hesitant to ride the last few days was due to some very close calls with skidding cars last time I rode on icy roads. Guess I could take the sidewalk.

Anonymous said...

I rode my bike on Monday. Completely enjoyed every minute of it. The best part was going home past everyone lined up for the light that never changes. I'm singing in the snow, catching snow flakes for fun, and probably irritating everyone I passed.

Part of the problem, if you can believe this, is that the TV and radio stations have an automated system for filing snow delay information. They default to a two hour delay and that's your choice. So, everybody had a two hour delay. Looks like the media once again foils self interest.

Joe M said...

I also finally started commuting into TA-3 this week (and I adore the Breezer Uptown I recently bought for this purpose - thanks to my brother in Marin for introducing me to a great US commuter bike).

Anyway, a quick observation on the sidewalks in the roads south of the bridge. They're fairly poorly laid out, especially for bicylists. Among the problems are the very non-direct routing, poor sight-lines from the connector, and very harsh corner transitions from the old to the new sidewalks. The coarse gravel they laid doesn't help, especially if you have to go off-sidewalk.

Has anyone else noticed this? Is it worth raising with the County or lab? Pedistrians have voted with their feet, and you can see a much better alignment for a sidewalk to both shorten and safen the route.

Also: newbie bike commuter question. To whom do we talk about getting a bike locker at TA-3?


Joe M.

Anonymous said...

I haven't noticed it because I don't ride on the sidewalks. This isn't an attempt to start the old sidewalk versus street argument. I just simply don't ride on them. I've found the street to be smoother and more logically laid out than sidewalks. If you decide to try the streets, ride about three feet out from the curb. The cars generally go around you.

Joe M said...

I also always ride on the streets as well, but in this area, you have no choice to avoid the large intestine of the convulted security entrance into the lab. That's why I was asking. What routes *do* people take into the lab south of the bridge? Surely not the winding security entrance?

Joe M.

Anonymous said...

Shoot right through it. It's intended to stop heavily laden, bomb filled trucks and people wearing funny clothes. Glare at the people in cars as you cut them off, too. The guards are all too busy waving people through to get too concerned about a bike.

Khal said...

Glad someone is using a Breezer. Nice bikes. Would like to hear more about it. I once made a suggestion that LANL buy Breezers and establish a LANL bike program similar to the one at Livermore.

The infrastructure south of the bridge belongs to LANL, so one has to go through the laboratory bureaucracy when dealing with issues on DOE roads.

The sidewalks are not set up to ride on. And, as Joe mentions, they are not always where they should be.

I don't think the roads are so bad. I ride south on Diamond to the end of Diamond routinely and its no big deal. I've seen cyclists on the sidewalks get cut off by right turning motorists (right hook sort of manuever).

As far as getting onto TA3? I usually cross the bridge southbound on the sidewalk since it is easy. I cross Jemez at the crosswalk and merge back onto Diamond. I head down Diamond towards Pajarito to my office. On the way home, northbound, I take the road and ride through the Intestine since I am cruising at a good clip.

Anyone riding on the bridge sidewalk, either north or south, should remember not to ride carelessly or at high speed and thus endanger pedestrians. Its possible to get up a pretty good head of speed going northbound. I've seen some cyclists behave badly, seemingly indicating "get off the sidewalk" to pedestrians. Go figure.

As far as lockers, that's yet one more thing the Laboratory needs to do better. Currently, lockers are associated with buildings so providing lockers is at the discretion of the individual FODs (facility operations directors).

I talked to LANL Traffic Engineer Charlie Trask about the idea of moving bike lockers outside the facility world and into the realm of parking lots. In that case, one could argue to create a single parking standard to accomodate cars, motorcycles, and bicycles. One could also do the same thing with a single building design standard. I will bring this up at the next Lab Traffic Safety Committee meeting, which I currently chairing.

Neale said...

I ride pretty much the same route as Khal. Since about November I've been trying different ways to orient myself the right way going North. There's just no good way to do it on the sidewalk, but I have found a trick that works pretty well.

Get into the parking lot somehow, the one with the bus transfer station. Head toward the bus transfer station and just go through the cement barrier preventing the road from exiting. There's enough room for a bike wheel to go to the left of the barrier. Then you have to merge with the busses (usually there are none), and finally with traffic coming around the bend (usually bursty).

The nice thing about going this way is that I don't have to try to merge onto Diamond with a left turn in bumper-to-bumper traffic, and I don't have to wait at any lights. Because traffic through the intestine tends to platoon, there are big wide gaps for me to hop into. I take it easy after turning at the light until there's another big gap for me, and then I'm pretty much by myself going down the bridge.

It's very low-stress, and it gets me right away into the street going northbound on Diamond. Has anybody else tried this?

Khal said...

I have not tried that, Neale. By the time I get to the parking lot entrance, the traffic is usually moving pretty well and I just cruise through.

Anonymous said...

I cross at the light onto the sidewalk. From there I just stay on it until I'm across the bridge at West Rd. I commute early in the morning and there are not usually a lot of pedestrians. The afternoon is another story. I just have to slow down for them and pass with care. I used to use the roadway to cross the bridge, but the whole intestine thing is a usual late 20th century American design. "What, you mean people seriously considered travel by anything other than a car?"

Scott said...

Re: Bicycling to the lab - Inbound, I ride in the roadway on Diamond, until I get to West Rd (just before the bridge), where I merge onto the sidewalk. I either stay on the sidewalk until I get up past the fire station, or I take the Research Park access road and cut through that parking lot.

Homebound, I stay in the roadway and follow the intestine all the way around. I usually move into the shoulder after turning left from W Jemez onto E Jemez (or whatever it's called there) to let a few cars past, but then I merge back into the lane before going around the curve onto the bridge. I always take the full lane on the bridge; in the downhill direction it's easy to maintain 25mph+.

Scott said...

Khal - I had another thought that you could bring up with the TSTF for snow days: The Lab could advise workers to carpool on those days when we have a 2-hour delay. Of course not everyone will want to , but at least it plants the seed of this idea into people's heads. "LANL - 2 hour delayed opening and workers are advised to carpool to reduce congestion". Can't hurt!