Drive vs. Drive
Transportation editor Steven Ginsberg and I got many responses to our test drive on Sunday's commuter page in The Post. We compared drives on parallel commuter routes from Columbia to Silver Spring. Steven took I-95 and I took the parallel course on Route 29.
Here's one letter.
Dear Dr. Gridlock:
I was fascinated by the article "Which Way" in the Sunday, Nov. 4, Washington Post, Page C2.
What would have been useful to know was how long each route was. Another thought is to add odometer readings along with the time and comments for the two different routes.
Note, I live in Charlottesville, Va., and work from home.
Distance commute: 30 feet (from bed to office);
Duration of Commute: 1 minute, unless there is a two-kid pile-up on the stairs.
I can't give you a link to the commuter page, because it's a part of The Post that isn't reproduced online, at least not yet.
Steven drove 19.8 miles from Columbia to Silver Spring vs. my 18 miles. He reached the Beltway three minutes before I did, but then drove along the outer loop to the Georgia Avenue exit before heading south into Silver Spring. I just kept going south on Route 29.
I got to our breakfast rendezvous first, so most folks figure he let me win.
There was no prize. Steven was always going to buy breakfast. Our real goal was to be able to illustrate aspects of different commuter routes, and we didn't want to duplicate each other on Route 29 south of the Beltway.
One thing I did do was pick the more interesting route for myself. Maryland has converted many of the intersections north of New Hampshire Avenue into interchanges and the shoulders have been opened to commuter buses in some areas. Still, there are traffic lights, especially south of New Hampshire, where Route 29 shrinks temporarily from three lanes to two. (The photos here are from another day.)
I figured Steven would run into trouble on his approach to the Beltway and on the outer loop, which he did. I figured I'd run into trouble around New Hampshire, which I did. But an unusual thing happened: Just north of the Beltway, an ambulance swung from northbound Route 29 onto the southbound side, where an accident had occurred in the left lane. The ambulance stopped, blocking the middle lane, so there was just the right lane available to squeeze by the incident.
But I was at the front of the pack, so when I passed by the Beltway ramp, I was virtually alone -- an extremely rare event during a morning commute. Normally, the right side of 29 is backed up extensively as cars maneuver toward the outer loop ramp.
Readers seemed to like the idea of what we did: Picking two routes to get to the same place. We'll try it again on some other course. We've also been talking about varying the pattern, testing driving vs. transit, or maybe driving vs. transit vs. biking, as one reader suggested.
Got any test patterns you'd like to propose to us?
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