Monday, August 20, 2007

Some transportation and other issues

If anyone knows the governor of Delaware, please tell her she owes me three dollars. That's half the toll you pay to pass through The First State.

The reason is that on Sunday (August 19,1007), I passed through this tiny state at less than half the speed I should have done. We pay tolls to pass through states and there is an implied contract that the passage will be made as painless as possible for the traveler. Delaware does not keep up its end of the deal and should not be able to collect its full fee.

I think going half and half with Delaware is being overly generous, but that's the kind of guy I am.

Why do I think this traffic nightmare was Delaware's fault? Bad planning on the Delaware Turnpike.

On Interstate 95 southbound, one crosses from New Jersey into Delaware via the Delaware Memorial Bridge. There are tolls for the bridge and another three bucks for the Delaware Turnpike. The first toll is the one I want back.

What happens is this. As a law-abiding driver, one heads for the EZ-Pass lane. It was moving slower than the cash lanes. That should have provided a clue there was something wrong on the other end.

By the way, anyone who does any interstate driving at all should get the E-ZPass. You are nuts if you don't. In most non-Delaware situations, you fly though the tolls as more and more tolls plazas do not have the familiar lanes but scanners mounted 40 or so feet above the roadway. You just keep going at highway speed through the toll plaza. It costs little but the tolls themselves.

Back to my problem. After one passes through the tolls, one heads for one of two main roads leading from the plaza, either I-95 south heading for Baltimore, Washington and points south, or I-95 north heading for Wilmington and Philadelphia. Drivers using the E-ZPass lanes on the left and heading for Wilmington must cross up to a dozen lanes of traffic. Ditto for cash-payers who want to head for Baltimore.

There are no signs telling you this so you might go to the single E-ZPass lane, or the cash lanes, on the right if heading for Wilmington and on the left if heading for Baltimore. So, instead of breezing along, you sit, pay your toll and then try to head for the correct road. Then, less than 11 miles later, there is another toll booth. So you drive at something like highway speed for five minutes or so before being caught in another slowdown for the tolls because you aren't told where the EZ-Pass lanes are until you are very near the tolls.

All this backlog can be lessened by some signage by the bridge and modernizing the other toll booth.

So if you know Ruth Ann Minner, the governor of Delaware, ask her to bother Joe Biden, the Delaware senator running for president, and get this problem fixed. Thank you. I'll split the three bucks with you.

Page 2

Did you see the baloney on today's USAToday editorial page from the lobbyiist for the airlines?

The paper published an editorial saying there needs to be a law to force the airlines to stop treating their customers like galley slaves, keeping information from them, forcing them to sit on planes with no food, drink or working toilets for hours.

It's the paper's policy to get a response for the lead editorial, so the head airline lobbyist said no new law was needed and the problem in the skies is the fault of weather, old air-traffic control systems, crowded skies, bad luck, gremlins -- everything but bad planning and greed.

That argument holds as much as the tiny snacks served on most flights. My wife thinks the increase in road traffic comes from people who are sick and tired of being treated badly by airlines. She may have a point. Maybe if enough people vote with their feet and stay off planes and perhaps take trains or buses, maybe the airlines might get the message.

But don't count on it.

Page 3

The front page of USAToday had a story that essentially said people who buy small cars are putting themselves at risk because they would be at a disadvantage in a collision with one of the overgrown gas-guzzlers crowding the roads. That's like blaming the victim for being shot.

It's these ovegrown Selfish Unnecessary Violations that are the problem. They take up so much room, can't get out of their own way despite the huge engines that spew pollution at a sickening rate, have lights that shine into the eyes of people driving more sensible cars and are high enough so their drivers get this feeling of power and use the vehicle like the tank that it is.

Page 4

Two quick points.

First, it's necessary to mark the death of Leona Helmsley, known as the Queen of Mean for her treatment of her employees and who spent time in jail because only the little people pay taxes, or so she said.

On the other hand, she did run a mean hotel, with great rooms, huge towels and stuck to her advertising slogan: "I wouldn't drink out of a plastic glass, and neither should you."

Secondly, Greta Van Susteren and others, please stop this breathy hype of Hurricane Dean. Greta called it Mean Dean and talked as if it were human.

Yes, it's a powerful storm that will probably cause much damage and could take some lives, but it's not the Apocalypse.

Greata and her fellow anchors, please, dial it down a few notches. Let the news set the tone. There will be enough news from this storm for lots of hyperbole without you.

Until next time....

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