Opinion: D.C. Traffic Engineers are the Best — Not!
One of the most enviable jobs in our modern society is that of the traffic engineer. I’ve often thought that this must be a most satisfying vocation, and that anyone who works diligently, with perseverance and ingenuity, must inevitably succeed at it. Furthermore, the successful application of the principles and techniques of traffic engineering are almost immediately visible – the feeling of accomplishment comes quickly.
Of course, the schooling and training must be long and intensive. I imagine every traffic engineer must go through a two-year internship as a traffic officer in the police department of a large city, where he can experiment with the various methods of impeding the flow of traffic. Then, I suppose, he also has to work with some sort of community planning group so that he can learn the intricacies of laying out streets and signal lights in random, haphazard patterns.
But I’m sure he doesn’t learn the real tricks of his trade until he’s actually on the job and can bring the full weight of his intellectual resources to bear on the problems of creating and sustaining the gigantic traffic jams which mark our metropolitan areas throughout the country.
Oh yes, you really have to hand it to them for that. I’ll bet that the traffic engineers from all the major cities get together for an annual celebration at least two or three times a year to boast about their successes. I can just hear New York describing some of his best traffic jams to San Francisco, for example, or Los Angeles challenging Chicago to create bigger and better jam-ups or else drop out of the race.
Finally, a particularly imaginative and persistent traffic engineer found a solution to this demoralizing problem. It was a stroke of genius, really. What he did was have one lane of that road chopped out entirely (those huge road building machines are very efficient at destruction, too) so that the remaining two lanes were exactly calculated to handle 66 percent of the traffic load. Now, of course, it takes 20 to 25 minutes to traverse a stretch of road which previously took about three minutes. You can’t beat that for improvement.
There are other examples, too, some of them even more spectacular, but too much praise may go to their heads. Anyway, I’ll stack my traffic engineers up against those of any other city in the country any time. Believe me, all of us around Washington breathe a prayer for them every night. And we sleep easier, knowing that our traffic engineers are on the job. It makes life more exciting, too, wondering what surprises they have in store for us tomorrow.