Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Who needs planning?

As you may know, I don’t have the highest opinion of the way this city is run.  The fact that the roads, including the highways, will flood and the traffic lights will stop working after anything heavier than a light drizzle solidifies my viewpoint.  Tonight, I came across another Atlanta-fix that seems to lack all forethought and rational planning.

It was about 9:45 p.m. and the lane leading to the highway on-ramp was packed with cars at a standstill.  Although at work, I wasn’t busy, so I figured I’d just turn up the music and wait it out.  It shouldn’t be long, right?  It’s just a fucking on-ramp.  People can figure out how to merge with traffic.  It shouldn’t be too long and will still be quicker than taking the city.  Right?  

First, let me describe this beautifully constructed on-ramp.  It cuts off from a main road at an intersection, so the people crossing the road have to merge with the people simply turning right.  Then, after those two roads become one, another on-ramp joins the party.  This shouldn’t be a problem, since there is a set of red and green lights above the point the two lanes merge (as is common in such a situation).  However, the fact that this on-ramp is located directly in the middle of the fucking city, and is used whenever the Georgia Dome clears out thousands of people, still doesn’t make the ramp important enough to make sure these lights work.  Ever.  Now you have two rows of cars fighting for one lane while trying to merge with highway traffic.  Perfect.

Now, the only time traffic moved was when someone in the line would get fed up and cut out, opting to deal with one of the Peachtree streets instead of the dreaded on-ramp.  Eventually, I pulled a dickhead move and merged into the second lane, turning onto the on-ramp from a non-turning lane.  I’m not proud of what I did since I yell at people for it every night.  Literal yelling.  I probably look like a lunatic.  But the opportunity was just sitting there and I felt a need to seize it.

Eventually, I get around the corner and see some flashing police lights near the section that merges with the highway.  Okay.  Fine.  Some idiot crashed his car and everyone has to look for some brain matter on the windshield before moving on.  Understandable.  After slowly inching through, we get to the point where we merge with the other ramp before hitting the highway.  Fully around the curve, I can now see what’s going on:  Construction.  The two right lanes are blocked off.  Sounds pretty routine, right?  Like it probably shouldn’t create a traffic jam at ten o’clock at night on a Monday?  Well, all you have to do to create a shitty situation is do something stupid.  Atlanta, you never let me down on this. 

They had road cones set up to merge us over the two lanes and into moving traffic.  However, they did it in about twenty feet which made the entrance to the highway into basically a T.  It was like you came out of your garage, stopped at the end of your driveway, and found cars flying by at seventy miles an hour.  Not the easiest entrance.  Also, how about we add the fact that there’s a curve in the highway right before your driveway and it’s night so all you can see are blurs from headlights, making their exact location and lane unidentifiable.  Sounds a bit like a death-trap, right?  Right.  Good luck!

That’s what was taking so long.  Nobody expected to have to go through an American Gladiators-style obstacle before they could continue their journey.  There was no way out of it.  Every single car in that line had to jump into traffic essentially blindfolded.  And the whole time, there was a cop about ten yards away, keeping a constant vigil over his cell phone.  Really earning those tax dollars.

I sat in line, waiting for my chance to try to not die, and my first instinct was to find someone to yell at.  Someone made the decision to set up the road cones in this way, and they were probably nearby.  The only person I saw that wasn’t another doomed motorist was the cop, and he was far too busy texting someone to bother with the ravings of a demented delivery driver.  Instead, I had to stew in my hatred until it was my turn to jump off the cliff and into traffic.  I had to wait out a few waves of cars before I saw someone slow down and switch lanes, giving me enough time to jump onto the highway. 

As I drove past the sectioned off lanes, I noticed there was absolutely no workers or machines doing anything behind those closed lanes.  Nothing.  They were completely empty.  At least show my some guy in an orange vest setting up a light.  But they didn’t even give me the satisfaction of feeling like my wasted time and dangerous few minutes were worth it.  Sure, maybe eventually they’ll do some work there, but how about you give people a fighting chance to get home while you don’t need the space?

I passed one exit and came upon the one I planned on taking.  Big surprise, there were the fucking people that should have been covering the last two miles of highway.  Police cars blocked the off-ramp, I’m guessing because they used all their cones on the last couple miles.  I swore loudly, punched my steering wheel, and reached for my phone.  I wasn’t sure who was going to get it, but someone was going to feel my displeasure.  Someone would know that I did not approve of the situation.  Since I don’t have a fancy future-phone, I texted Google for the phone number of Atlanta Public Works.  Of course, their office was closed, but the recorded message gave me a number to some poor guy if I wanted to report a dysfunctional traffic light.  Close enough, I thought, and wrote down the number.  After a few tries, he picked up the phone.

“Who do I talk to about what’s going on on 75?”  I tried not to yell.  There would be time for that later.

“Well, what’s going on there?”

I went into a tirade about dangerous intersections and man-made traffic jams.  I tried not to swear, but I did a bad job.

“It’s idiotic.  It’s almost as if they put no thought into it whatsoever.”  The man stayed quiet for the majority of my rant.  “It’s not hard to fix.”  I thought for a moment.  “All they would have to do, is stretch out the area to merge.  Give us another quarter of a mile to get up to speed and find a spot to fit in.  Or, block off the last open lane a half-mile back to give us an open lane.  Then people can merge back after the on-ramp and do whatever they want to do.  There aren’t any other on-ramps for miles, so they’d only have to do it that once.”

These are two ideas that I came up with after thinking for ten seconds.  I could have thought of simply sticking a yield sign and saying “Good luck, assholes!” in about two seconds if I hadn’t just seen it.  If whoever was in charge of that had thought for eight more seconds, this whole disaster could have been avoided.

The man eventually informed me that since he only works with traffic lights, he wouldn’t be able to do anything about it.  He took my information, allegedly wrote down my gripes, and promised to pass along my information to the proper department after locating the phone number.  My hopes of anything coming of this were extremely low, but I felt like I had to at least try.

Let me make one thing clear; I didn’t feel like I had to try out of some Robin Hoodian desire to fight the good fight, or stick up for the voiceless, or help out my fellow citizens, or any other Rage Against the Machine lyric.  That makes it sound too grandiose and too kind-hearted.  Plus, if that were true, this would make this entire story just a big jerk-off about me saying how great I am.  The truth is, they pissed me off.  That’s it.  Trying to do something was a self-serving act because they simply wasted some of my time, and that is something that pisses me off to no end. 

Anyways, a couple hours went by and I came across the on-ramp again.  I didn’t see a huge line of stationary cars, so I decided to check it out.  Maybe on some long-shot chance, they did something about the bullshit, I thought.  I came around the corner and almost shit my pants.

The fucking cones were set up in a long row, easing the merging lane with traffic.  Exactly how I told them to do it.  Immediately, I started patting myself on the back and thinking about starting my long career in local politics.  Nothing fancy like Mayor, just a position that makes shit work the way it should.  I had no idea what that would be, but I was certain I was perfect for it. 

As I drove along MY long, gradual merge lane, I noticed a cop waving traffic along.  I slowed down since the lane became narrow by the officer, and noticed the smashed car about ten yards after the spot that housed the Yield sign. 

They didn’t take my advice.  They simply had to re-work the entrance to the highway to go around the car that got smashed trying to merge with traffic from the original entrance.  The very same entrance that I called the city and told them was dangerous.  This, in a way, is just as validating as having them take my advice.  I was right all along.  Except this way, I get to continue to call them idiots because they didn’t avoid what I told them was going to happen and how to avoid it.

Another few hours later, I tried the on-ramp again.  They say insanity is repeating the same action and expecting different results.  However, I expected nothing from this on-ramp.  I just wanted to quench my curiosity about how it was going to play out.  I turned the corner, and saw a worker standing in the middle of the merge lane.  The road cones were a solid line behind him.  He looked at me and held out his hand for me to stop like a crossing guard that was simply filling in for a friend.  He stood like that long enough for me to grab my phone and take a picture.

It’s hard to see since my phone sucks, but he’s there.  He looked around like he didn’t expect to see a car on the road and wanted someone to make it go away.  After a few confused minutes, he moved a couple road cones and let me go through.  This was at 12:45 a.m.  Three hours after I first noticed how shitty the whole situation was.  After three hours, they still didn’t figure out how to close two lanes while still allowing cars to merge from an onramp and into traffic.  Three hours.  And there was no end in sight.  For all I know, the lane could still be impassible right now at 3:15 a.m.

I have no delusions about me being smarter than the people running this city.  They went to school for what they do and have years and years of experience doing it.  That being said, this was an easy fix.  The guy who got hit should not have to go to the mechanic tomorrow.  If people would just pull their heads out of their asses for a few minutes every once in a while, the city would be a much more enjoyable place.  But, that will never happen.  With each passing day, a quiet cabin in the woods with my nearest neighbor a mile away is sounding more and more enticing. 

1 comment:

  1. Atlanta should be burned to the ground (again). It would be a favor. They would have a chance to start over again (again).