New Jersey Traffic

August 12, 1999

We recently moved into a house in North Brunswick which puts me a little farther from my office than our old apartment in South Bound Brook.

I thought this was going to be great. My commute to work would take me on Route 1 and the Garden State Parkway. The house is within a mile of Route 1 at one end. At the other end of the parkway, I would have to go a couple of blocks to get to a four-lane road that would just about take me past my office. How could it get any better?

Before we moved, I even tried coming home on the parkway and Route 1. Of course, I wouldn't take Route 1 all the way to the new house but I would at least go through what I thought would be the worst of the Route 1 traffic: the 2.5 miles between the parkway and Route 287 that passes in front of the Menlo Park Mall. The few times I had a chance to try this route, it worked out well. I was convinced I'd be able to get home in a reasonable amount of time and actually be able to attend some of the evening church events.

Boy, was I naive. That 11½ mile stretch of Route 1 that I didn't travel before was full of traffic lights spaced at half-mile intervals. There are a couple of stretches where you can actually get the car up to speed for a minute or two before braking for the next light but those areas are few and far between.

The other problem on Route 1 is the number of people who insist on driving in the left lane. They get onto the road, move into the left lane and drive there until they get within 100 feet of their exit at which point they shoot across three lanes of traffic to get off on the right. In the mean time, they don't pass anyone and they don't keep up with traffic.

And that four mile stretch on that four-lane road past my office has turned into another headache. The left lane is useless because there are cars making left turns at every traffic light. That doesn't stop people from trying to use it to go straight. They go as fast as they can and then cut someone off when they pull back into the right lane to get around someone who's turning.

I've even tried a few other routes to get from the parkway to my office. Each alternate route has had it's own problems making it no better than any other. I'm convinced that everyone in New Jersey commutes through Union County. I've never seen roads tied up in all directions so extensively anywhere else.

In the middle of my commute is the parkway. Whoever asked the question 'why do we drive on parkways and park in driveways' never saw the Garden State Parkway at rush hour (why do they call it rush hour if no one is moving? why do they call it traffic if it doesn't move?) Some days it's great. Other days I've spent 40 minutes to go the 12 miles. I can only be grateful that I get to drive the section where there are no tolls.

So I tried an experiment. I've been cutting across Franklin Township and practically passing my old apartment in South Bound Brook to get to Route 287. I take 287 north to Route 78 which takes me just about past my office.

The good news: It has been taking me about 50 minutes to make this trip. That's about the best time I ever made going the other way which usually takes about 60-70 minutes.

The bad news: The trip is about 12 miles longer.

So how do I go 43 miles in 51 minutes on the circuitous route and 31 miles in 70 minutes on the direct route?


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