When to Change Commute Route
To address a reader's concern about the intersection of Route 29 and Spring Street in downtown Silver Spring, I asked Chuck Gischlar at the Maryland State Highway Administration for some traffic stats on Route 29 usage in that area. Here's the history of average daily traffic flow on Route 29 near Spring Street:
2001 - 35,975
2002 - 37,150
2003 - 37,525
2004 - 34,375
2005 - 33,750
2006 - 33,412
Many of you know Route 29 as a busy commuter route between the Maryland suburbs and the District. Why the decline? Gischlar offered several possiblities, but I've got a theory and a question for you all.
First, this is what Gischlar suggested: The Route 29 bridge deck at the Beltway was replaced during 2004 and 2005. Some of the traffic may have shifted to another route. Also, he said, some of the traffic counts are called program counts, averages from actual counts that take into account a forecasted growth in the region that might be slightly off.
But I was intrigued by the idea of commuters changing routes. We are creatures of habit and tend to fall into commuting patterns, even if we don't really enjoy the patterns. (Great story on this in the April 16 issue of The New Yorker by Nick Paumgarten subtitled, "The soul of the commuter.") Establishing a routine helps us endure.
I'm thinking that the delays caused by the bridge redecking pushed some commuters over the threshold of endurance, and they sought alternative routes. For others, maybe it wasn't a road project. Maybe the redevelopment of downtown Silver Spring was enough to cause them to see a dodge around the junction of Route 29 and Georgia Avenue.
But at the same time I was toying with this notion that it takes a jolt -- a significant and sudden increase in traffic -- to get us to change patterns, I also thought about a commute I used to do between Silver Spring and Rosslyn in which I was constantly testing alternative routes to find the one that was quickest, or eliminated an annoying left turn or merge. (An easier experiment to perform through a city grid than on a long-distance highway commute.)
I'd like to hear about your experiences and opinions on commute patterns and what it takes to vary them. We have three forums: Comment right here on Get There, write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org (that's the mailbag I use in writing the twice-weekly newspaper column, so please include your name, home community and a phone number), and a Live Online chat at 1 p.m. today. The latter is our twice-monthly free for all on traffic and transit issues. You can submit a question or comment for the chat right now by using this link.
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