The Traffic Pet Peeve Off Continues…. What is Yours?

Rob Long is a commentator for KCRW. He is a writer and producer in Hollywood, and can be heard during All Things Considered on Wednesdays at 4:44 pm. I asked him what his Traffic Pet Peeve is for The Pet Peeve Off….

Rob Long

Rob Long

“Los Angeles traffic is not that complicated.

We don’t need buses.  We don’t need light rail.  We don’t need anything fancy.
Oh, sure, we could use those things, to keep traffic from its near-permanent jam.  And to keep the skies a bit clearer.  But like every other big problem, Los Angeles traffic is really just a constellation of a lot of little actions, all added up.

Then, a moment or so later, check your rearview mirror.

If it’s a typical LA traffic experience, the car that was right behind you at the red light will now be dawdling about ten car-lengths behind, pulling slowly along, taking its time.
Try this experiment.  The next time you’re at a red light at an intersection, at the front of the line, pay close attention to the traffic light.  The moment it turns green, look around quickly to make sure the intersection is clear, and go.  Quickly.  Don’t floor it, but move in a sprightly fashion through the intersection and pick up the pace.

Which means that the cars that were maybe five or six cars behind that car have no chance at making the light.  (And usually, the person in the sixth car back is me.)

But there’s nothing more frustrating than being only a few car length back and still missing the light — just because someone wasn’t driving fast enough, so those folks push it a bit and go through the intersection even when the light hits yellow — or even red — which will delay the passage of the folks to the right and left, waiting for their light to turn green, because there will still be people in the intersection.  So that delays their takeoff, delays the people behind them, so the person in the sixth car back (usually, that’s me) has no chance to make the light, and so spends a fruitless hour trying to go a few measly miles, arriving to the meeting or the lunch or the event short-tempered and late, bitter, exhausted, and filled with contempt for their fellow humans, who are, it seems, too distracted and spacey to respond to a green light with verve and enthusiasm, as is their civic duty.

And that’s why LA traffic is so awful.  There’s plenty of room on the roads — there are miles of empty boulevards just a little bit ahead of the typical intersection stutter-snarl.  We’ve all experienced that odd moment where the traffic just suddenly eases, with no obvious explanation.

Here’s the explanation: people just unconsciously, simultaneously, began to drive a little bit faster.  With a little bit more energy and pep.

We don’t need more buses.  Or more Metro Rail.  We need more pep.  We need to drive like we’re driving, not like we’re texting or talking or singing Lady Gaga.  We need to drive — all of us — like we’ve got somewhere to go.

The sixth car back (usually, that’s me) will thank you for it.”

Related Links:

The Pet Peeve Off

DJ Aaron Byrd’s Traffic Pet Peeve

DJ Garth Trinidad’s Traffic Pet Peeve

Rob Long’s Traffic Pet Peeve

Tom Schnabel’s Traffic Pet Peeve