please can anyone work this out?

Discussion in 'After Hours Lounge (Off Topic)' started by andrew markworthy, Apr 10, 2005.

  1. andrew markworthy

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    This is a very basic real-life problem that has got me baffled. In brief - why should a road that is always congested with commuter traffic be practically deserted whenever there are school vacations, when the traffic is not school-related?

    In more detail:

    Every day I drive to work I take a road through my village that gets really congested (typically it takes me at least 10 minutes to drive half a mile - thereafter I can take a much less used backroad to work). The cause of this congestion is traffic coming off the motorway (i.e. Brit equivalent of a US freeway) and using this road as a link to another, bigger, road that will take them to where they are going.

    Okay, so what? This sounds like a typical commuter's tale. Except that during school vacations the road is practically deserted. The most obvious answer to this is that I'm going to work during the school run period. But I'm not - the school run doesn't start until at least half an hour after I set off to work and in any case the other drivers are almost invariably single occupants (i.e. no kids are in the car). Nor is the cause teachers going to school (there's a whole lot of evidence why that I won't bore you with). Nor can it be that the road is deserted because loads of adults are taking time off to be with their kids during the vacation - Brits just don't take their holidays in this way, and in any case, this might account for some lowering of traffic volume, but not the truly dramatic drop in congestion.

    Anyone got any ideas, please?
     
  2. george kaplan

    george kaplan Executive Producer

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    It's possible that the commuters are using it as an alternative route to one where there is school-related traffic. And when school is out, they use that other route, freeing up yours which they use as a school-driven detour when school is in session.
     
  3. Mike Wladyka

    Mike Wladyka Supporting Actor

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    Maybe something to do with buses? Maybe school buses use the roads and make frequently stops.
     
  4. Philip_G

    Philip_G Producer

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    Perhaps people drop their kids off at school and take that route to work, but there is a better route if they don't go by the school first?

    Maybe more people take the day off to be with their kids than you think?

    Maybe what george said.

    Maybe they take their kids to some kind of care provider or other place so they take an alternate route.
     
  5. Joseph DeMartino

    Joseph DeMartino Lead Actor

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    I'd say George, Mike and Phillip have all made good suggestions.



    That's the key to why this seems a mystery, and/or a paradox. But you are assuming that it isn't school related based on your (necessarily limited) observations and your local knowledge. (Of school locations, timing of bus runs, etc.) But since you are talking about a link between two major routes, you haven't considered how much things complete outside your area might be affecting things.

    It may be that school-related back-ups elsewhere are slowing traffic on one or both of the motorways, making it harder to merge and slowing traffic down on your local street. Or any of the explanations already offered (or a combination of these) could be correct.

    The most likely answer, whatever the details, seems to be that what you're experiencing is school-related, but involves things outside your immediate observation and knowledge.

    My local area is a minefield of road constructions projects at the moment, run by local, county, and state crews and not at all coordinated. Even though my route to work takes me past only one school, I also notice a huge difference in traffic on days that the schools are closed. This is because the construction creates a domino effect where any delay anywhere translates to a big traffic problem everywhere. Remove one cause of back-ups and the entire system runs smoother.

    Regards,

    Joe
     
  6. andrew markworthy

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    Many thanks for the ideas, folks. They're a lot smarter than the solutions I've generated. However, with the greatest of respect, I don't think they quite hit the target, but I think this is because I haven't given you enough information, for which sincere apologies.


    Joe, I agree 100% - but I'm still unsure that we've hit on the answer.

    I think that it's perhaps worth adding that the majority of drivers on the road when it's busy are single thirty-somethings in what are obviously company cars. By the looks of the numberplates, I'd say that a lot of them aren't local and are passing through on their way to towns further up the valley in time for the start of the business day.

    It's possible that a small percentage are affected by each of the factors we've raised and it's a cumulative effect, I suppose.
     
  7. Glenn Overholt

    Glenn Overholt Producer

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    I dont know if this will work, but I think it is all a question of timing.
    During school, let's say mom gets up at 7, and they dress, eat, and leave at 8. The children get dropped off at 8:10, and mom hits the road to work.

    Now, no school. Mom gets up at 7, and is out of the house and on the road at 7:30. Maybe she get off work earlier when school is out?

    What you need to do is to go to a certain part of the road one day and watch the traffic. It might be full at 7:30, but empty 10 minutes later. Just my theory, of course.

    Glenn
     
  8. Joseph DeMartino

    Joseph DeMartino Lead Actor

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    Exactly. And if conditions where they are coming from or where they are going to vary with the school calendar, that would produce the effect you're seeing.

    You say the motorway's route does not pass any schools. But do you mean that none of the feeder roads that connect to the motorway have schools anywhere near them? Is there only one school in a 30 or 40 mile radius? I find that hard to believe. [​IMG]

    There may be a school near the workplace destination of these folks that backs things up, or many may normally be delayed on their way to the motorway and therefore hit your local road at around the same time on school days, but make better time on non-school days. Or some may make better time while other's journey is unchanged. That would spread the traffic out more, and even a difference of five or ten minutes can have a huge effect on traffic flow.

    Regards,

    Joe
     
  9. Greg Dorsey

    Greg Dorsey Extra

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    When I was living in the Washington DC area, the same phenomenon was evident when schools were closed. Now I'm in a rural area and I don't notice it so much.

    One thought: Perhaps more adults take off from work when the kids are out of school. Here in New England families frequently travel to warmer climates during the school's winter break (in February) or spring break (in April.) Also, families with two working parents often need to be home for the younger kids when school is out of session. They're therefore not around to clog up the roads during rush hour.
     
  10. Grant B

    Grant B Producer

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    English roads in general are so different from US roads I won't attempt an answer.
    Grid patterns which are used in the US are almost non exisitent in the UK. Except for Southern England; East West roads are hard to find
    When I lived there I used my reverse gear more in 2 years then 20 in the US. (Stone fence on one side and river on the other and only 1 lane is typical) and rarely roads more than 2 lanes. The one thing that stands out they were not made for speed or convience but because a Roman Legion once used it as a footpath.

    andrew
    It dawned on me many years after I started commuting from my Home in San Francisco to the Silicon Valley why Mondays were always a easy commute. Most restaurants and Theaters are closed on Mondays. They got enough cars of the road in the evening to make it a breeze; like wise Fridays were horrible because plays concerts etc added just enough to clog the freeway - 5 lanes in both direction. A small precentage of the total but just enough to jam 5 lanes. If yours is 2 lanes it wouldn't take much.
    It might be something like that
    Good Luck
     
  11. Lew Crippen

    Lew Crippen Executive Producer

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    I´ve spent some time in the UK, but never long enough to comment with any confidence or authority.

    Even so, I suggest that many parents take the odd day off, go on holiday or work from home during school holidays. This is pretty common in the States--to the point where traffic in many areas (I commuted against the main flow of traffic in Dallas) is very noticeably lighter during school breaks.

    BTW, I noticed the same phenomena in three different cities in Australia.
     
  12. andrew markworthy

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    The Brits for some reason find grid patterns very funny. The only large town/city that has one is Milton Keynes and Brits make jokes about it. And yes, travelling east-west is generally difficult in the UK. Nobody knows why, but it certainly is true. The exception is Cardiff-London, but that is probably the exception that proves the rule as it's the link between two capital cities.

    Thanks for all the extra answers guys. I'm getting more convinced that it's the cumulative effect of lots of changes each minor in itself.

    Incidentally, the schools were back today and once more traffic was at a snail's pace. One day we're promised a by-pass. Various governments have promised the same by-pass for the last thirty years. [​IMG] Since it took the UK nearly a hundred years to introduce decimalised currency (the first coins to integrate into the new decimal system were issued in 1880 and we finally decimalised in 1971) I hold up little hope for something as minor as a by-pass.
     

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