local traffic slowing Friday night ski escapes?
March 13, 2004
Interesting article in the Wash Post today on the terrible local traffic impacting weekend vacationers heading out for ski trips and other recreational activities. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A51597-2004Mar11.html
(This link might not take you directly. You may have to register first. The story is on the front page of the hardcopy of the Post today.)
Delays getting to Massanutten and Wisp are among the cited examples. Article points out that returns on Sunday night are no fun either. I was awed (to put it nicely) by the slow, very heavy traffic that extended virtually all 50 miles out to Frederick, MD on a rare Friday night foray I made recently up I270 to go to Wisp. How do you regular weekend ski-escapers beat the Friday night gridlock?
This is news? I seem to remember hitting the Friday night backup even when I was in college (over a decade ago).
Worrying about traffic is like worrying about the weather; you can't change it, so why bother worrying about it?
One big stress inducer is that people don't set realistic expectations as to how long it takes to get somewhere (I'm as guilty as anyone on this one.) There is a natural tendency to use best-case drive times, not taking into account any traffic at all. When the inevitable Friday and Sunday PM traffic is encountered, then the blood pressure rises. It doesn't have to.
I'm with Snowcone; plan ahead and avoid traveling during the worst of the rush hours. Most people have enough *occasional* work flexibility and don't travel that much that they can leave work early on the weekends they do travel. If you don't have that flexibility, why let an extra hour each way ruin your weekend? The group in the Post article that skipped skiing on Sunday because they were stressing about possible return traffic are a bunch of wusses. Wouldn't want to live their lives.
Stepping off my soap box I will say that I've lived in the DC-Area since 88; I've worked a large variety of jobs, including high-stress/long-hour dot-com tours of duty; I've travelled plenty with children; and I get out and about more than the average person.
It only helps a little, but....
When I plan a trip to Snowshoe, I dump the loaded car at the Vienna metro stop the night before.
I have a job that I can't get out of work early --so I have to grin an bear the bad traffic. (actually my girlfriend can attest there's not much grinning and a lot of acting liek a bear).
At least, if i take the metro, I can look out the window at all the poor sucker who will be BEHIND me on 66 when I pick up the car.
Traffic in DC doesn't bother me much. I live an 8-minute scooter ride or 20-minute bike ride from work. The rare occasions I drive (because I need the car for some reason after work) are enough to convince me I never want to face a nasty commute again.
I've never used the strategy for a trip to Wisp or more northern resorts. They seem close enough that I'll just get up at 4 am and drive to be on trails at about opening.
Traffic is one of the many reasons I'm hoping to move. Checking out of the city life, taking the paycut, and enjoying it somewhere else. I don't care for most things the city offers anyway (most of the time)-- would rather be out hiking than in an art museum any day.
This is all dependent on graduate school getting back to me... which is growing increasingly frustrating...
The worst of it is the traffic on Saturdays. Out in Anne Arundel County moving around is still pretty easy, but I won't travel more than 45 minutes from my house on Saturdays anymore because it invariably involves a back-up somewhere. Might as well go into the office for a few hours while I'm at it.
For the record, most of my commute is done via public transportation, but over the last two years I've noticed a deterioration in service there as well. The infrastructure of this region-- not just traffic but the infrastructure in general-- seems to be breaking down as less and less money gets allocated to essential services (relative to the amount needed to sustain the population of the region).
So my complaining is hopefully going to cause me to move... guess that helps solve the problem one person at a time!
When I drive to Snowshoe, I try to leave on Friday either around 3 PM or after 7:30. Traffic on I-66 usually isn't too bad when I do that. A few weekends ago, my wife and I and another couple got on I-66 at Ballston at 3:30, arrived in the Snowhoe area at around 8:15, enjoyed a fashionably late dinner, and were on the mountain for first tracks at 8:30 Saturday morning. On Sunday we skied from 8:30 to 1:00 and then headed home.
Saying that traffic is bad in the DC area is an understatement. If I didn't work in DC, I would NEVER go near the place! Driving from Baltimore to Deep Creek or CV really isn't bad. Usually when I go to CV, I leave from work in downtown DC by 2:30pm on Friday afternoons to beat the HOV restrictions, and take the toll road west towards Winchester. The one time I took 66W at 2:30, it was gridlock all the way to Gainsville.
The traffic isn't just bad for vacitioners, it's so bad that it, in my opinion, makes the DC metro area a horrible place to live. I don't really know how you can deal with it, the traffic here will eventually get so bad that it will literally cripple the region.
I wish they would do an article on us long-distance commuters that HAVE to work where the jobs are, but can't afford the hyper-inflated housing costs of the immediate metro area. How is someone on an average salary working in DC supposed to afford $300k for a 1br condo, or $1500 per month for a studio???
Believe it or not, I've found that the traffic out of town in the winter is a little bit easier than summer traffic. The article does not address seasonal traffic patterns--a key issue for skiers.
However, the article does support my assertion that the increasing problems of getting out of DC will mitigate any advantages created by Corridor H for those living in the metro region.
Finally, it mentions that air destinations are becoming easier to commute to than some driving destinations. We've said this many times on DCSki that getting to Utah is easier than getting to Snowshoe. Snowcone may have the right philosophy: buy a condo in Reno and commute by the commercial airlines.
Answer: don't leave on a Friday!
Whenever we go skiing or kayaking, we usually try to leave on a Thursday mid-afternoon. Since OBX (kayaking) and Snowshoe are appx 5 hours from work (load truck at home, leave directly from work in DC) we try to leave around 1:00pm in the winter and before 3:00pm in the summer. That allows us to miss heavy traffic on 66 going west in the winter and ditto on 95 going south in the summer. This way we have all day Friday, Saturday and til noon on Sunday to enjoy ourselves before we bail for home around 12-1 pm. We usually can beat the traffic in the winter, but coming home on 95 in the summer can be a pig at times. Plus .. we make it a point -never- to travel on holiday weekends; masochists we aren't.