High cost of congestion Tie-ups: Idling away the time in traffic jams costs Baltimore drivers 30 hours a year, plus money spent on wasted fuel.

Intrepid Commuter

October 27, 1997

THE NEXT TIME you sit in a traffic jam -- and plenty can be found around here -- consider this tidbit from researchers at Texas A&M University: Baltimore motorists spend an average 30 hours per year in such tie-ups.

That's the latest conclusion of a 10-year study on gridlock in the Longhorn state and in 43 urban areas, Charm City included.

Our traffic jams rank 21st in the nation when measured by the level of congestion -- a calculation involving traffic flow and mileage. It's a lofty equation that baffles your Intrepid One, a wordsmith often allergic to numbers.

But the Einsteinesque gridlock calculation reveals a top 10 list even David Letterman can't argue with.

Leading the nation in misery is Los Angeles, followed by our neighbor to the south, Washington, then San Francisco-Oakland, Miami and Chicago. Seattle, Detroit, San Diego, San Bernardino-Riverside, Calif., and Atlanta complete the list.

Texas Transportation Institute researchers also came up with gridlock cost factors that are staggering: In Los Angeles, the cost of fuel wasted in traffic jams was $8.6 billion in 1994, while Washington's per-car cost of fuel wasted in congestion was about $860 -- a national high.

The combined cost of congestion for all areas studied -- Baltimore included -- was $53 billion.

Relief can come only if areas add or improve roads, said Tim Lomax, an institute researcher. Then, there's the anti-sprawl option, which requires a change of philosophy to channel development back into urban areas. That plan could eliminate daily commutes for many.

In any case, the study confirms Intrepid's theory that you can count on three things in life: death, taxes and traffic jams.

Customers give high marks to rolling MVA office

"The Bus Stops Here," says a Motor Vehicle Administration flier announcing the agency's latest attempt to simplify the lives of Maryland drivers.

With apologies to Harry S. Truman, the agency is hawking its newest vehicle, a reconfigured Mass Transit Administration bus rolling through some Maryland counties. It offers the same services as the MVA offices in Mondawmin Mall and Glen Burnie.

The bus is driven by Harold Young Jr., a 24-year driver for Greyhound Bus Lines. On board, customers will find a staff of three working a bank of computer terminals, a fax machine, a copy machine and even a camera for license photos.

"I love the fact that we're traveling and providing a service to people," said Kathy Wiederock, one of the employees on the bus. "People are saying, 'Thank you for coming to us.' "

MVA Administrator Anne S. Ferro dedicated the bus last week at Hunt Valley Mall by snipping a yellow ribbon stretched across the wide front door. She described the bus, called MVA On Wheels and similar to an operation in Connecticut, as "cutting edge" and customer-friendly.

The bus will appear at these sites each month: Hunt Valley, the Social Security Administration, Health Care Financing Administration, Silver Spring, Patuxent River Naval Air Station, Chestertown, Princess Anne, Ocean City and Frostburg State College. Information: 1-800-950-1MVA.

Four-way stop signs also give residents pause

In Mount Washington lately, the intersection of Greenspring Avenue and Ken Oak Road looks as if it could have been the backdrop for a Norman Rockwell painting.

But look closer.

Great angst is swirling around the placement two months ago of four-way stop signs there. The signs have caused traffic to back up onto Northern Parkway at rush hours and to Cross Country Boulevard at other peak times, commuters report.

"These signs should be removed immediately to ease the flow of traffic, which is growing each year as new construction takes place to the north and the racing season" at Pimlico commences, wrote Henry L. Blum.

City bureaucrats say the signs were placed at the intersection after several residents along Greenspring and Ken Oak complained the intersection was getting too congested to cross.

"It was agreed we try this out and see if it works," said Department of Public Works spokesman Kurt L. Kocher. "We're in a six-month trial period."

Kocher said a traffic engineer studied the site last week and found that traffic backups "seem to have lessened."

He said the engineer speculated that commuters avoid the intersection.

In the meantime, Kocher said one resident had written a thank-you note to the agency for the Greenspring stop signs. It stated, in part, that "many kids are able to walk to and from school and to soccer practice."

Pub Date: 10/27/97

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