Sunday, March 1, 2009

Traffic you can use

I don't like to get too pet peeve-y, at least not too often, so I haven't written before about traffic reports. I don't quite get why they're so important (at least they are in Chicago), because there are rarely good alternatives. My suburb was once a farm community, so it was pretty self-contained except for the train line to Chicago (used mainly to ship furniture). The major businesses were those that were needed internally, like commercial stores and the hospital and the schools.

As a result, there are simply not a lot of direct roads here from the big city. There is Ogden Avenue, a busy stop-and-go roadway that travels through several commercial districts and is ill-suited for actual travel. And there is I-88, part of the Interstate Highway System.

So, if you're coming to or from Chicago, and there's a problem on 88, well, too bad, that's still going to be the best game in town. They'd have to pretty much close the highway for an hour to make taking anything else worth the delay.

Therefore, traffic reports are largely irrelevant to anyone living in my area, and the same is true for a lot of the other suburbs around Chicago. Yet, traffic reporting seems to become more important all the time, and I've learned to live with it.


I heard a traffic report on our local news radio station the other day introduced with, "Getting you home safe and sound...." That sounds good, and I'm sure it's the kind of thing that sounds warm and audience-friendly, but it's such nonsense. If you want to get people home safe and sound, you should put them on the most crowded roads you can find. You're way safer driving at 5 mph than speeding along at 75. The objective of the report is to get you home fast, not safe. That illusion, that it's helping you do that, is the source of its attraction, but it's pretty weak.

Well, I've read over the preceding, and it sounds a bit more curmudgeonly than I like to think I am, but heck, let's put it up anyway.

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