Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Traffic Jams - Not as Bad as You think

Today, as with so many days, I found myself stuck in a traffic jam, and I thought I'd share my little trick for keeping one's sanity when it seems like you are just creeping along.

The key to understand is that traffic jams don't take as long as they seem to. It's just that when we are in a hurry, and think we should be moving, but we aren't, time appears to pass more than it does. To really illustrate this, the next time you are stopped at a light that always seems to take forever to change, try to accomplish something with your phone, your laptop, whatever you have available, and watch how much briefer the light seems.

When entering a jam on the highway, reset your trip odometer, and note the time. Then, when you clear the jam, and are normally on your way again, note the distance of the jam, and the time it took to get through it. For my experience today, it took me 6 minutes to go 2 miles. Now, it happens to be mathematically convenient that what you're going to average on an unburdened highway is about 60 mph, or a mile per minute. So to estimate what time the jam actually cost you, just take your traffic jam traversing time, and subtract the distance covered, which we now know is a good estimate of the time it would have taken with no traffic jam. In my case, all that aggravation amounted to 6 - 2 = 4 minutes.

Do this for every jam you are subjected to on a regular basis and watch how much less stressful they become once you understand how little time you are really losing.


pradeep said...

Move to Atlanta, where traffic is so horrendous, 25 miles takes about 90 minutes to traverse by freeway, so about 65 minutes each way, each day wasted.

alex said...

That's the right attitude!
My trick is listening to talks on tape. For a real good talk, I almost look /forward/ to sitting in traffic.

Ingsf said...

At any rate, I liked some of the vadlo science cartoons!