BOSTON (CBS) – The stats are in with no big surprise. According to the Urban Mobility Report, the leading annual ranking of traffic congestion in the country, Boston traipses in 7th in the country when it comes to pulling the hair out of your head amidst tie-ups. Want to know how many hours are lost to traffic jams yearly? Are you sure you want to know? OK, don’t say I didn’t warn you. My fellow Hub of the Universe drivers, we waste a total of 48 hours annually spinning our radials without going anywhere. Yet it could be worse. Chicago ranks highest with 70 hours lost. At least we have better seafood. The report defines congestion in a number of ways, none of them pleasant. We burn up to 36 extra gallons per week idling. As the price of gas edges close to four bucks, do the math and you’ll be one step nearer to going Ralph Kramden and busing it. The cost of traffic congestion for the region is nearing $3 billion annually, Boston ranked 11th in the nation. And what can any one of us do about it? Talk about the ultimate in rhetorical questions. Potholes, construction sites, and too many fellow humans all trying to get to and from work at the same time means we’re mired, stuck, saddled or just plain done for. I have no brilliant solution for automobile malaise.
There are however two clear types of clogged arteries that should be relatively easy to fix, without the use of stents, Lipitor, or a “Big Dig” style construction crew. One occurs frequently at the local supermarket or mall parking lot. In my own informal observation, I estimate losing about a year’s worth of productive living waiting with directionals flashing for a snail-like human to vacate a stinking spot in the lot. It happened just the other day and I’m sure you know the feeling. A shopper arrives at her car, crawls into the driver’s seat and proceeds to do the following: adjust mirror, apply lipstick, slurp some coffee, use the cell phone, start the ignition, heat up the vehicle, slurp some more coffee, check behind her seat for something (a pet or child she forgot she had), extricate herself in slow motion to go back into the store to return something…well you get the idea. How long should it take for someone to insert key and haul a bit of rubber while parked?
These malingerers, and they number in the millions, cause unnecessary and uncomfortable friction for me since I’m blocking other friendly shoppers trying to get by. Drivers to my front and rear blame ME for holding THEM up. Talk about being stuck between a rock and a parking place. God forbid I roll down the window to politely ask when or if the stubborn party plans to depart? That usually results in them digging in, slurping more coffee, watching me suffer while I nervously wait them out. It’s an injustice having to wait so long for someone to leave. How about stores placing stickers on shopping bags with friendly reminders such as, “Thanks for your patronage. For the benefit of fellow shoppers, please get to your car quickly and don’t let the wrecking ball we have poised by your car’s roof crush you on the way out.” Something subtle like that might do the trick.
The one other “traffic” problem that needs attending involves bipeds who choose to slink down the corridor of a narrow hotel, cruise ship or store hallway. It only widens the problem, if you catch my drift, that Americans are fatter than ever. Please folks, step lively or step out of the way. You’re making me and others late for a very important date. I have to get to my car to prepare for a joyous Boston area jaunt to nowhere, one in which I’ll whimper as the gas gauge ticks down knowing full well that I’m missing the overture, part of the first quarter or a chance for a meal that won’t require reheating in the old microwave.