02 October 2006

Afternoon Blues

For the past eight months, I have been performing an unscientific survey. Two or three times a week, I have diverted from my normal commute to work (West on Little Patuxent Parkway to Rt. 29 North) and have driven through downtown Columbia. Although I have not counted every car during the morning rush hours, I have varied my times between 7:00 AM to 8:30 AM to get a good idea of traffic flow during morning rush. The results are (for an unscientific survey) fairly dramatic. For the most part, there is no morning rush hour in downtown Columbia. Certainly, there is traffic. On most days there are cars all around me, but we move along at a fairly steady 30-40 mph. On most occasions, I have had to stop at two lights, and the commute down Little Patuxent Parkway, past the mall and Symphony Woods, then left onto Broken Land Parkway rarely takes more than ten minutes. I do not think there is another city greater then 100,000 people in the world in which a commute through downtown takes less than ten minutes.

Afternoon drive is a completely different animal, but why? A brief passage in the Howard County Department of Planning and Zoning commissioned downtown Traffic study (Glatting Jackson – PDF ) provides the following information (page 5):
Existing and through traffic (i.e., traffic with neither origin nor destination
within the Town Center) is a major component of the … Little Patuxent/Governor
Warfield (north) intersection.

It seems during afternoon the afternoon rush hours, there are a lot of people that use downtown Columbia as a pass-through. I believe the culprit behind the use of downtown Columbia as a speed bump is the sprawlish developments in the Rt. 99 corridor, the Rt. 144 corridor (between Rt. 40 and Rt. 32) and the explosion of single family housing north along Rt. 32. As these housing developments have become established, traffic on Rt. 32 and Rt. 29 have become chronic parking lots. Faced with limited access to alternate routes many divert through downtown. As a resident of Wilde Lake, I have often seen the egress point of this traffic. It heads up Ten Mills Road in Running Brook, then onto Rt. 108 West to Centennial Lane. Rt. 144 traffic makes a left onto Rt. 40 for half a mile and then onto Rt. 144. Rt. 99 traffic continues North over Rt. 40 onto Bethany Lane.

The only evidence I have of this behavior is that as I commute home, if traffic has backed up from Rt. 29 onto westbound Rt. 100, the traffic on Ten Mills Road is very heavy for a residential street, and everyone is turning left at the Rt. 108/Ten Mills Road traffic light near Centennial Park. In addition, I have brought this concern to several community meetings. After each meeting, I usually hear from 6-12 people that I they in fact use such a route to commute home.

If we are to make downtown Columbia a destination again, we need to do something about traffic. Taking those afternoon rush hour drivers off the downtown roads would be a great start.


Anonymous said...

Well, there's always public rapid transportation.

Anonymous said...

Make that personal rapid transportation.