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Traffic Signals

Freeways speed up from a slow crawl to a fast crawl

By Genevieve Roja

OH, MAN, TRAFFIC WAS BAD in the boom times. We loathed the main drags--880, 85, 17, 280, 101, 680--but stayed on the road. How else were we going to get to our blasted jobs from our blasted miles-away homes? Opt for public transportation? Puh-lease. For most of us, the VTA buses, connections and rail lines meant a two-hour trip. So we suffered in our metal tins and listened to NPR and Howard Stern to make the hellish nightmare known as traffic pass. Then that proverbial ax came swinging down, bumping off most of the Jettas and Beemers and leaving room for the Geos and Saturns on the road. According to Caltrans spokesperson Jeff Weiss, traffic engineers did a two-week study that concluded in late April and discovered a 10 percent drop in San Jose area traffic. Highway 280--that wide bastion of collector traffic--had the most significant drop, compared to other highways. Be it known, however, that when we talk traffic numbers, we're talking traffic congestion, Weiss says. Congestion is defined as "any time traffic is traveling under 30 miles per hour for 15 minutes." The cause for the drop in traffic? Take your pick.

"It could be a number of things," Weiss says. "It could be fewer people working because of layoffs, the downturn in the economy, the [daylight savings] time change ... could be summer break or a combination of those things."

Whatever it is that brought traffic from an L.A.-style crawl to a regulated Montana autobahn, we're just damn glad it's moving.

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From the July 19-25, 2001 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

Copyright © 2001 Metro Publishing Inc. Metroactive is affiliated with the Boulevards Network.

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