Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Traffic And I Haven't Spoken For Months

You know that Seinfeld episode where Kramer adopts part of the Highway and repaints the lanes so they're wider and more "luxurious"? That's what driving in St Louis is like, sans wider lanes. Now, the Chicago boy in me wants to talk about the "expressways" here in St Louis, but I'd be breaking St Louisese (the native tongue) law by calling them that. No, here you drive on highways. What's the difference between I-70 and, say, Highway 67? Nothing if you're going by descriptor. They are, in fact, both highways. Yes, I-70 is more "express" than Highway 67, but who am I to argue? They don't use it. So there.
Anyway, at this point you're wondering where the luxury comes in while driving in St Louis... What would take an hour's drive in Chicago during rush hour would take you about 15 minutes here in St Louis. Yeah, I know! Maybe even less. Where in Chicago most people would claim an average commute time of 45 minutes being just about right, in St Louis people feel bad for you when dealing with a half hour drive. Even the busiest, most congested road during rush hour (I-270) isn't that bad unless there's an accident or the like. Sure, it gets pretty slow, but it's certainly manageable. Of course, residents here think it's horrible and why wouldn't they? That's what they're used to. But for me it's like riding a bike in the park. Actually, that's not a fair analogy. I do not own a bike. Busted...
That said, there are only a few things that have gotten me riled up. Now I'm a fairly calm person and road rage is not something I'd consider to be in my repertoire, but man alive what is with the traffic lights here? In the county, where most people live (it's the St Louis suburbs), the lights are fine. You never wait an overly long time. But try driving in the city at night. First of all, unlike Chicago, the city is fairly empty at night specifically around downtown. You can drive right past Busch Stadium and down Market Street and literally not see another car after 9 pm. So that's why it's so frustrating when you pull up on a red light and sit there for over a minute while not one car enters sight. And almost all the lights are like this. Timed. Not for the time of day, but for when the streets are at their busiest... Rush hour, Cards games, ...actually that's about it. Any other time and you're counting down the seconds you could be using to think about interesting blog posts. Yeah, you could think about something like that right then, but you're driving. Defensively, I hope. You really should be keeping your eyes on the road.
I know what you're thinking. "Well if no one is around why not just go through the insanely long red light?" That's a good question and something you should have really thought about before you asked it. Running red lights is dangerous. Annnnnd St Louis already thought of how to thwart your bad judgement. They have installed cameras at each intersection. You can still go through the red light if you want but be sure you're it's on a day when you don't have a huge zit. That would be so embarrassing when you get the picture in the mail. You just know the clerks down at City hall would have a good laugh at your complexion mishap. Oh the times I bet they have!
Here's the best part of this whole traffic thing. They have a major highway closed right now. I-64! Yes, a whole major interstate is completely shut down and yet the traffic still flows. I can't wait to see what's in store for my travels once that bad boy opens up in December. I'm going to totally drive somewhere.

UPDATE: Sorry about the font size here. Blogger has been... Well, I don't need any more trouble so I'll leave it at that.

UP-UPDATE: Fixed it! HTML and I have grappled and, once again, I win!


Meg G. said...

alright...as someone who has lived in STL for longer than 6 months, I will say the traffic is WORSE than this makes it seem. By no means it is like Chi-Town or another major city...but it is bad. Jim, you must not drive anywhere busy like in the county during rush hour. I feel the best bet is for you to take 270 north to 40 west around 5:30 pm. that is a wait that take almost 20 minutes to go 1/4 a mile....not good news!!!Also it should be noted that people in STL cannot drive whichs makes event he smallest rush hour HORRIBLE!!!!

Anonymous said...

Somehow I've managed to learn to live with the stoplights, even though I commute daily from far South City to Creve Coeur and back.

What gets me are all the stop SIGNS. When I first moved here back in 2000, I lived in Soulard. Up until then, I was a pretty conscientious driver and typically made a complete stop at a stop sign.

Not after Soulard. I mastered the art of the rolling stop, and learned to modulate it sufficiently well so that a passing police person let me continue on my way without stopping me.

I had gotten so used to the rolling stop that I'd pretty much forgotten about it until my parents, who lived in Kansas at the time, came for a visit.

We were headed from the southern part of Soulard to Nortons, and my dad chided me and said that if I didn't stop all the way, I'd get a ticket.

I could only reply that if we stopped at every stop sign, we would never get to the restaurant.


KM said...

Get with it...you've lived in StL long enough to know that (1) the major roads are also called interstates (not just highways) and (2) I-64 is never called I-64 but rather Highway 40 (an exception to item #1 above). The other item which I know really bugged people from out of town is how there are an inordinate number of green lights where oncoming traffic have a longer green. As such, anyone hanging out in the intersection waiting to make a turn on yellow finds themselves hanging out in the intersection after the light turns red (or doesn't realize it and turns into oncoming traffic).

Dellvt said...

When in St. Louis, traffic is not to horrible. Where it does get bad is when you bottleneck. For instance, say you live in Illinois, but work in St. Louis. Getting on ANY of those bridges is terrible during rush hour. What takes 20 min. on a clear day takes easily 1 hour because of those bottle necks. Other than that, traffic here ain't bad (especially compared with D.C.)

Todd Jordan - tojosan said...

St. Louis traffic only seems horrible if you come from a town with one stop light. Generally all the roads aren't too bad but there are a few exceptions. The biggest exception being parts of I-64 are closed off. This causes other streets to be overly used and back up on occasion.

Forest Park drive, bad enough with all the stop lights, is now swamped with East/West traffic that used to use 64. Makes for a longer trip than Google predicts.

All said, it's really not that bad, but yeah, the lights aren't all 'smart' lights, and the programming on some of them is very questionable.

Out here in the burbs, the major lights have various timing depending on the time of day and day of week. Some areas even have lights that turn to flashing red after 10pm. That actually helps that late at night.