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Monday, May 9, 2011

PENNDOT Uses Magic Eight Ball To Determine Travel Time on Parkway East

Where Is Your God, Now?

PENNDOT is trying, repeat ‘trying’, to get into the 21st century with ‘Real Time’ measurements of how long it will take you to reach the tunnels on the Parkway East. I say ‘trying’ because today was not an accurate estimate of my travel time.

Usually, if I can get on the Parkway East before 6:30 AM, I can make it beyond the Squirrel Hill Tunnels just before 6:45 AM. That assures me that I can make it to my office just before 7:00 AM. I like that extra few minutes of time to heat up my breakfast and make a cup of coffee before I get going.

So, today I managed to get on the Parkway East around 6:20 AM. So far, so good, right? I saw the sign before the Church Hill exit that usually says something along the lines of ‘Congestion 1 mile ahead’ or 2 miles or 3 miles. Today, it said, ‘Travel time to the Squirrel Hill Tunnels is estimated at 10 minutes’. I paraphrase the actual message as I was driving by fast enough to go back in time, given that I have a Flux Capacitor and some plutonium. Unfortunately, the 05 Malibu Maxx did not come with a Flux Capacitor. DAMNIT!

It was 6:24 AM, at that moment. I thought, ‘Oh, that’s different. Not too bad, then.’ That meant I should reach the tunnel by 6:34 AM.

Unfortunately, everyone decided to just stop on the parkway as we rounded the bend by Westinghouse Technology Park. I didn’t reach the tunnels until 6:44 AM; a full 20 minutes from the sign which read 10.

So, I guess the takeaway is that this ‘estimated’ time could mean anything from twice that. I think that’s a considerable delta. In fact, I think that is too much of one. Why don’t they just go back to the old method which was more reliable? Except that isn’t too reliable when there is an accident on the outbound lane and everyone in front of me slams on their brakes so they can see the wreckage. How about this for some traffic estimations?

“The tunnel monster is PMS’ing it. Everyone is on their brakes from here to the Edgewood/Swissvale on ramp.”

“Rubberneckers ahead. Better call your boss.”

“Remember how you tried to fit into those jeans from last year? A tractor trailer thought the same thing with the tunnel.”

“There’s snow. There are tractor trailers ahead. They never clean off the tops. Do the math.”

“’Eff it. You aren’t getting anything done today, anyway.”

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