The C Is for Crank
The C Is for Crank: Carpocalypse Never
As usual, a road closure fails to lead to gridlock, despite hyperbolic predictions that narrowing I-90 to one lane would result in a traffic disaster, including 10-mile backups and travel times six times as long as usual.
Learn to trust the Crank.
Prior to this week's partial westbound I-90 closure (the freeway has been narrowed to a single westbound lane so the state transportation department can replace expansion joints on the aging roadway), the local news media inundated readers and viewers with hyperbolic headlines, many implying that drivers will literally have to struggle to survive the partial shutdown.
Among the dire predictions:
"Weeklong traffic snarl starts Friday on I-90" (The Sammamish Review)
"'The week from hell!' Commuters are upset over looming I-90 lane closures" (Puget Sound Business Journal)
"Prepare for huge delays on I-90" (The SnoValley Star)
"Surviving the I-90 mess" (The Bothell/Kenmore Reporter)
"Big traffic headache coming to I-90"(The Bellevue Reporter)
And finally... "How Will You Cope with I-90 Lane Closures?" (The Seattle Times) This is the poll that included options like "just sit in the traffic jam" and "bite the bullet and pay the 520 tolls," but did not include non-car alternatives like taking the bus or biking to work.
Now, here are some of the headlines today and over the weekend, many of them from the same outlets that predicted doom just days earlier:
As with previous predicted "Carmageddons," this latest catastrophe failed to materialize.
"I-90 Closure Monday Morning Commute Goes off Fairly Smoothly" (this from the same outlet, KING 5, that was responsible for that "ten-mile backup" prediction)
"I-90 Traffic Not So Bad on First Day" (The Seattle Times)
"Traffic 'Free-Flowing' on Westbound I-90, Despite Predictions" (The Seattle Times)
"Work, Traffic Moving on I-90 Project" (The Bellevue Reporter)
Bottom line: As with previous predicted "Carmageddons," this latest catastrophe failed to materialize.
Instead, drivers did what rational people always do: They made different choices, using alternate routes (according to the Times, traffic on parallel SR 520 was also "flowing freely"), driving at different times, avoiding unnecessary cross-lake trips, telecommuting, or using other modes of transportation, like carpools, buses, and bikes.
As I noted last week, "People make smart choices, traffic moves relatively smoothly" doesn't grab viewers' attention the way a headline like "The Week From Hell!" or "Expect 10-Mile Backups" does.