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Traffic problems for a big kid in the real world

By Richard Scott
On January 15, 2013


Research conducted by the Institute for Things That Make you Go ‘Duh’ has suggested that nationwide traffic problems are getting worse. Being on my third engineering co-op, working out in the real world this semester, I’ve had the chance to experience firsthand the vehicular mayhem in a big city. I’ve discovered over these past few weeks that people seem to approach commuting to and from work as a kind of competitive sport. I might have actually seen someone throw a banana peel out of their window the other morning.

The fact is, our roadways are a mess. As a prospective civil engineer, this is both good and bad news for me. I suppose it offers me a level of job security, but because commuting by automobile now takes so long, I’ll never have time to do any actual work. By the time I reach my place of employment, grab a cup of coffee and spend a few minutes complaining about how bad the traffic is with my co-workers, I’ll have to start my long commute home, unaware that my job was actually outsourced to Asia months ago.

We need to come up with a solution. The Gridlock is getting worse and worse. For instance, in the greater Los Angeles area, the only documented case in the past few decades of anyone actually getting anywhere by car is O.J. Simpson. Not even the rural areas have been spared. Traffic in Nebraska has become a serious problem where this past year, for possibly the first time in Nebraska’s history, two motorists arrived at the same intersection, simultaneously (Nebraska has seven). The motorists were reportedly stuck there for days, each gesturing in a friendly fashion for the other to go first. Ultimately, they both walked home.

So what can we do? One alternative is to allow people to drive on the sidewalks, a common practice in large cities already. It would seem that the motor vehicle code in the downtown area of big cities consists of a single law: No Stopping. I learned this while sitting at a cafe table where a taxi almost hit me. When I signaled to the taxi driver to say, “Pardon me sir, your taxi nearly struck me,” I was met with some unintelligible shouting as he sped off which I can only assume was, “Well what do you expect sitting at a Cafe Table like that!”

If we adopted such a system nationwide, we could definitely speed up traffic flows by offering that additional sidewalk lane to motorists, and as a side health benefit, we’d really perk up the pulse rate of the average pedestrian.

Another proposed solution to our traffic woes is ‘car pooling’, which is when a group of friends ride together in one car, saving gasoline, inhaling each other’s body odors, and arguing over the radio. I think we can rule this solution out.

A far better solution is a mass transit system, proven effective in Chicago, New York, Washington D.C, and Boston (just ignore the fact that these cities still have really bad traffic problems). A mass transit system can be very costly, however. Washington, for example, might never have been able to afford its subway system were it not for the billions of dollars generously provided by taxpayers. Most cities, like Toledo and the city I happen to be working in for the semester, don’t really have that option. Where does that leave us? The answer is simple and affordable: We’ll steal a subway!

Of course I’m not talking about stealing the whole thing. That would be illegal. However, if everyone in Toledo were to visit, say, Washington as a tourist, and each of you were to take a Phillips screwdriver and a few minutes out of your day between visiting monuments to unscrew a small piece of the subway, before you know it, guess what? That’s right: A large portion of Toledo’s population would be in prison. This would ease the highway overcrowding.

As an engineering student at Toledo, I’ve learned to consider numerous options to problems, weighing the benefits and drawbacks. Whatever traffic solution we decide on, we need to do it soon. As a nation, we need to get out of gridlock, much like the one I’m in now, writing this. I’m sick of being stuck in traffic. Please shoot me. Or maybe aim better with those banana peels.


Richard Scott is a senior majoring in civil engineering.

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