Merge Your Enthusiasm

While crawling in bumper-to-bumper highway traffic last week I was thinking about the differences between those drivers who wait in line to merge and those who cut the line to merge at the last possible point. I try to avoid binary thinking but yield when it comes to highway-merging behavior: I fume about line-cutters 85% of the time. The other 15% of the time I cut the line. (What this says about my values I’ll leave aside for now.) Everyone who drives has an opinion on merge behavior, which is why The Urge to Merge in today’s paper will likely be the most-emailed article from the New York Times this week. Cynthia Gorney’s article, on what she calls “The Caldecott Tunnel Problem” (in pre-Ted Williams Tunnel Boston we’d have called it the Callahan/Sumner Tunnel problem), is quite funny and breaks (brakes?) the binary-thinking barrier, explaining why the most efficient merging pattern uses both “lineuppers” and “sidezoomers.”

4 Replies to “Merge Your Enthusiasm”

  1. Alex Gershen

    The Urge to Merge – awesome article. I do battle with the Caldecott tunnel twice a week when I am home in CA and I always seem to get there when only one tunnel is open!

    I have two methods. 80% of the time I zoom past the slow passive drivers that wait in line. Finally my lane comes to an end and I cut off at least 10 minutes of traffic!

    The second method (20%) is to exit the freeway entirely, then hop back on 24 on the re-entry. Depending on where the traffic is- this method can save the most time, skipping all traffic entirely.

    I guess that says something about my personality!

    *Side note* My father and I passed through the Caldecott Tunnel on our way to a 49er game back in 1991. As soon as we made it to the Berkeley/Oakland side, a small brush fire was taking place in the hills and firefighters were already at the scene. By halftime of the football game the sky had turned from fog gray to ash black. The next 3 days the fire destroyed nearly 3500 homes, caused 1.5 billion in damage and killed 25 people.

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