Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Japanese Tunnel Entrances

A tunnel entrance featured on the JH Web site,

The "Post-Interstate Era"

Today in defensive driving class, the instructor droned on about proper behaviors and reasons behind speed restrictions in work zones. Suddenly, in a rare moment of canned clarity, he announced, "In the post-interstate era, road work is likely to become a more commonplace phenomenon. As motorists, we must all be sensitive to frequent and distributed efforts to keep our nation's roads in good repair."

I found the observation quite interesting and wondered where he read it (why his syntax and diction had suddenly improved so drammatically!), but I thought it might come across as obnoxious to I didn't.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005


Coming from the East, as I-90 wends its way towards the Massachusetts State Capital, Springfield, and intersects various spurs to I-91, these days the flow of traffic is interrupted by a good deal of roadwork. Rushing past this on Sunday, September 25, instead of the usual "Warning: Lane Shift Ahead" sign, with the nervous 3 arrows pointing vaguely to the left, a large orange work sign read, "Road Work Ahead: Squeeze Left!" Strange, I thought: "What a cute, cushy command!" But when I actually saw what "Squeeze Left" meant, I realized how apt the description truly was. Sadly, the "squeezed lanes" were still considerably wider and maneuverable than the FDR drive, and many near-Manhattan, high-speed roadways.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Road Departure

The FHWA uses the euphamism, "road departure," to cover quite a range of terrifying events:

"Of the 42,643 people killed on our nation's highways in 2003, over 25,000 died when their vehicle left their lane and crashed. In some cases the vehicle crossed the centerline and was involved in a head-on crash or opposite direction sideswipe. In others, the vehicle encroached onto the shoulder and beyond to rollover or impact one or more natural or man-made objects, such as utility poles, bridge walls, embankments, guardrails, parked vehicles, or trees."

I saw a grusome road departure on I-91 on Friday night (9/23) at 10:45pm.

I-45 Traffic Returns to Normal

Kudos to the NYTimes for putting this picture on the front page! Notice how the lane lines have a black outline. I believe this is a trend, and that such outlines indicate a fairly-recent painting. The first time I noticed that sort of outline was in Virginia -- a state whose road policy seemed effective and, certainly, whose painting regimen was up to code. But I've also seen it show up on the just-reconstructed stretch of I-95 in the Bronx. I wonder whether there's a machine (rather like white-out tape) that leaves a black trail following (or preceeding) each white mark. Might it just be some much-larger version of the snail-like white out tape dispenser?

Siemens VDO Automotive

Staring at German-made instrument display panels for the past 7 years, I can't help but notice how many of the components seem to come from a company named "VDO." Who is this VDO? Thanks to the web, I've discovered that, like other Siemens-associated companies, they make EVERYTHING -- from "tolling systems" to "fare management products" for public transportation systems. Some of their most interesting products, such as this driver "Head-up display" seem reserved for their most daring client, BMW.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Nighttime Evac. Shot

Source: DrudgeReport

Traffic Flow Regulations Needed

A fresh AP report informs us:

"Houston Residents Scrambling Out of City
Sep 22 9:16 AM US/Eastern

Associated Press Writer


Hundreds of thousands of people were frantically trying to escape the nation's fourth-largest city Thursday as Hurricane Rita approached the upper Texas coast.

But interstates were at a standstill for up to 100 miles and gas shortages were already being reported.

Gov. Rick Perry early Thursday ordered southbound traffic on Interstate 45 shut down and all eight lanes redirected north out of the city for 125 miles. Local officials warned residents to get out, and told them they would not be rescued if they waited."

How could traffic be bumper-to-bumper for 100 miles? One has to wonder whether I-45 is equipped with the same sort of traffic-light-controlled entrance ramps one finds on urban interstates in the Northeast and Southwest. Although these do little to actually reduce highway congestion, it seems to me that they might effectively control the flood of vehicles if used more strategically. Two-minute entrance wait times, anyone?

Clearly, roads designed to carry up to 300,000 cars per day will balk at the sheer volume of more than 1 million vehicles trying to ride them, but with both sides of the roadway now headed in one direction, capacity should increase dramatically... But perhaps the problem lies 121 Miles north of Galveston on I-45 in Walker County, near Huntsville, TX. (Could this be the same "Walker" of George W. fame?) Where in that area might this bevy of motorists go? How do those travelling on the wrong side of I-45 manage to exit safely onto non-limited-access roads, such as National Route 190? (Clearly this confusion must cause considerable congestion.) And further North, where does the traffic moving in South on I-45 end?

It would be fascinating to watch this (perhaps from a helicopter?), but to experience it is probably some terrible amalgam of frustration and fear.

A Nauseating Commute

at approx. 7:30PM
amidst the large, hideous concrete buckets housing struggling plantlife
at the crest of the LIRR entrance
lay an attractive young man, between 18-22 years-old
wretching on the sidewalk
spewing a trickle of vomit
it was mostly clear
or more the color of a very diluted egg-drop soup
VERY diluted
but punctuated by kernels which looked decidely popcorn-like
it was a small quantity of vomit
but he was rather thin (attractive) and didn't look like he could hold very much anyway
by all accounts, he was ready for a night out on the town, dressed in a hot clubbing outfit -- tight, fitted, black T, nice jeans, etc.
the girl who was with him
was rushing others away
looking vaguely panicked
and decidedly out of it (her eyes were having trouble focusing). What were they on!?
yet withal,
a pride of semi-concerned commuters began to surround the body
in a beautiful, body-shaped ellipse
the haunting echolalia of "oohs," "ahhs," and "is he oks?" was interrupted only by the dull thunder of commuters on the march rushing by
some fatigued national guard troops in fatigues, with large, automatic weapons moseyed over, but quickly jerked back like guns being cocked at the sight of the vomit
the MTA police (not the midtown tunnel authority, mind you) huddled at the bottom of the stairs

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

The Coast is Toast

With the impending landfall of Hurricane Rita, I-45 (the Gulf Freeway) is clogged with northbound traffic in the vicinity of Route 528, NASA Rd. Houston, we have a problem! ;)

Tuesday, September 20, 2005


There are many famous towns out there, but in Fucking, Austria they've decided to encase their road signs in concrete to prevent souvenier-taking.

What took them so long?

Monday, September 12, 2005

But Officer...!

I hear tell of people wiggling their way out of traffic tickets all the time. But I really have to wonder, when is the right time to start gilding the officer's lilly?

Yesterday, shortly after making an illegal left turn off of Town Path onto Northern Boulevard (State Route 25A)in Roslyn, I had an encounter with the Popo.

I was quick to take off my sunglasses and turn down the Nordic Lounge Vol. III, but the officer -- the good of the two cops -- was equally quick to demand my license and registration.

"No, that's your insurance card! Do you have your reggie?," cutely inquired the officer?

"Oh yeah!," I said, handing it to him slowly, giving myself time to write the dialogue for the scene in my head, thinking that the term, "reggie," was downright adorable!

When the officer asked me if I knew I had done wrong, I recalled the thoughts that had just gone through my head as I made the illegal turn (clearly marked as illegal). My thoughts had actually proceeded in a predictable sequence:

1. "Gee, no left turn, eh? I guess this way wasn't faster after all."
2. "Hmmm... I don't want to go to the right. Must I?"
3. "Maybe they don't really mean no left turn."
4. "Am I in Massachusetts? They don't care about this kind of signage in MA."
5. "Oh, there's a traffic light to the left -- left-turn ho!"
6. "Yes! Made it to the stop light. Nice!"

Recalling those 6 thoughts, followed by the pull-over, I decided to respond, "Ummm... Was I going a little fast over the hill there or something?"

"No," said the officer, slightly puzzled, "you made an illegal left turn off of Town Path!"

"Town path, huh? So that's not so good is it? Wait, illegal!?"

I began to think about where we might take this line of discourse, ready to summon the opportunity for police laugh-hour across from the luxury car dealership on a severely-angled road. But even this "good cop" would have none of that. Where was the opportunity for witty villain banter with the Popo? Some of the things I could have said, were he a more willing audience might include:

"But officer, don't you remember those stories of the sniper on top of the bagel store down the block? I had to get away as quickly as possible!"

"But officer, if I had made a right turn I would have later had to make an illegal U-turn to wind up in the right direction. This was clearly the lesser of two evils."

"But officer, have you never driven in New Mexico? The width of those roads (across which people routinely make left turns) make Northern Boulevard look like someone's driveway!"

"But officer, perhaps you're not familiar with the swift pickup of the KOMPRESSOR C230 Coupe engine?"

"But officer, I'm dislexic!"

Alas, I said none of these -- there was nary a chance!

When bad cop (who was apparently disgraphic for it took him a good 10 minutes to write maybe 50 characters), returned to the car with my summons in hand, he curtly announced that I could appear in court to respond to the charge of illegal left-turnage, or I could just plead 'n' pay.

Deciding that THIS was my opportunity for officer-motorist rapprochement, I kept my hands folded in my lap and refused to take the summons from his hand. As he began to shake it in my general direction, I looked up and him incredulously, with a stern frown and wondered, "But officer, is this really a ticket-worthy offense?"

"You madeuh left uhcross fawhr lanesuh traffic. That's dangerous!"

Again, I thought of New Mexico, Land of Enchantment, land of cars sitting in a median waiting for the second step of a two-step left-turn-making process across two sides of a road with cars travelling between 50 and 70 MPH.

"You have no idea...," I said as I snapped the ticket from his claws and rolled up my window.

Afterwords, I pondered going back and ripping the no-left-turn symbol off of the sign and then pleading innocent to the summons. "But your honor, I didn't see any warning that such behavior was illegal!" But I figured that the vandalism charge (which, in my huge maroon mumu, someone would likely see and report to the appropriate authorities), would have been even more invidious than my alleged improper turning.

I suppose I'll just pay for my arrogance -- at only $105, it huts my wallet a lot less than either a parking or cell phone ticket! :(

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

LIRR Poetry

Morning sweat; pastel bodies trundle down the stairs
A conductor lists back and forth in the doorway
The wall cries out with phantom ringing
If you see something, say something.

Step, beep, step, beep, step, beep
The platform below is oceans away
It’s 8:37 and the 8:38 is leaving the station
It’s all YOUR fault.

Crisp September air is hot and wet with summer.
Apollo's rays occlude the laptop screen.
The 8:56 (not for free-range commuters), thunders in
Backwards, at least I found a seat.

Beep, pop. A conference call commences.
With frosted coffee hands, employees hesitantly stagger in
The elevator takes forever.
I am late.