Trials of the I-70 commute

Monday, October 15, 2007

A while ago I began working back in the big city while remaining in modest Lawrence. This required a 40 min. x 2 drive into the sun five days a week. It wasn’t so bad at first, but the race through traffic and mass of incandescent gas started taking its toll.

I decided to evaluate what was wearing me out. The sun, for one, was melting my retinas and giving me headaches. This stress could easily be eliminated with the right shades, polarized to be exact. They immediately reduced eye strain and lowered my stress level. I was still experiencing anxiety that led to being drained at work and home. This had to be stemming from my colleagues on the road.

Driving I-70 during rush hour is like threading a needle. You’re constantly struggling to out-pace traffic so you can relax and cruise the rest of the way home. Only problem is your cruising doesn’t happen until the last 10-15 miles. I averaged 80 to 85 mph and decided one day just go the speed limit, 70 mph.

The results were immediate. I didn’t have to pass anyone! That alone leveled my stress. Then I realized I wasn’t getting into any traffic jams because they were all hurdling past me. I could hold a steady cruising speed without having to touch my brake. This also upped my miles per gallon giving me an extra trip on a full tank.

The irony was seeing everyone who passed me at the toll booth or the first stoplight, so I knew I wasn’t losing any time.

After spreading the word about this revelation, a coworker was telling me about some research comparing fluid dynamics and traffic waves ( The Wikipedia page describes it best:

A deeper understanding of traffic waves is a goal of the physical study of traffic flow. When looking at traffic waves, the traffic itself can often be looked at in a manner of fluid dynamics. It has been said that by knowing how traffic waves are created, drivers can sometimes reduce their effects by increasing vehicle headways and reducing the use of brakes, ultimately alleviating traffic congestion for everyone in the area.

So to my dear fellow I-70 commuters, you don’t have to thank me; but just remember who’s making your life easier. See you at the toll booth!