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Monday, April 18, 2005

Does that Drive-Through Morning Coffee Add To Gridlock and More Pollution?


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What's all the fuss about a cup of coffee? Does it really make a difference if you have one in the car or on the road? According to an article in the April 17th, Washingon Post,
Pursuit of a Grande Latte May Be Stirring Up Gridlock (washingtonpost.com) the combined effect of all those morning coffee and/or breakfast sandwich stops that have been added by commuters drving in over the last decade may have been a factor in the increase in highway and road congestion we've experienced.

In a way, this is sadly funny, because many people stop for that morning jolt of Java just to make that drive in less stressful. How ironic that the net effect of all those coffee stops may be to lengthen the commute and make the trip even more stressful.

The solution is simple. Make that coffee at home. But is it the same? Does it have the same allure as sitting in a drive-through line and paying too much for that overpriced cup? Do you feel as special? As pampered? And does that feeling of being pampered and special get wiped out by the stress of your commute? And what about the stress and mess of making the coffee in the first place? And to set it up on the timer the night before, well, that takes, planning, and, wellm thought!

Of course, in some cities, you can go even farther, make that cup of coffee at home, put it in a travel mug and take the train or bus to work.

But let's not be radical like they are in Chicago where 1.5 million trips a day are taken on CTA alone. (Or they will continue to be, unless the Illinois state legislature wimps out on funding CTA and CTA is forced to cut 1/3rd of its bus routes this summer and the entire city has to drive to Springfield to show them what gridlock is really like. Really, it would be a nice weekend trip, bring a cooler and some sleeping bags, fill the streets around the capital for miles around and park. Non-violent protest is always the best way. But I digress.)

Let's forget that fact that by doing so, by not starting your car in the first place, you avoid a cold start which is a good portion of the pollution cost of your commute and that on a per mile basis, you are ten times less likely to die on transit than while driving.

Probably even more safe than if you are driving while drinking hot coffee. Add drinking coffee to talking on a cell phone and you are really pushing it. Sound familiar? If this sounds like you, time to rethink your priorities.

Oh, please, don't drink, talk, and drive. And for God's sake don't try to eat that sandwich at the same time without putting down the coffee. You think I haven't seen you from the Red line? Ha! You were weaving back and forth in your lane buddy. God I wished I had my camera that day! It would have made a nice little quicktime movie to go along with this post.

But I digress. I am known for that.

The fascinating thing is that these trends are large enough to be picked up in national travel statistics. Notably the 1995 and 2001 U.S. Dapartment of Transportation's National Household Travel Surveys, with sample sizes of 70,000 households each. These are not small samples. This kind of survey allows for really complex analysis.

To see some of it, read the Washington Post article until it expires in 14 days. Comments welcome.

That's it for this file, which I admit is a bit of a rant. Not a good day for me. Those who know me know what I mean. Today is an 8. Or -8 if you prefer.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

This article also made the interesting point that the purchase of "Starbuck's for the road" was part of an increasing trend toward multi-purpose trips. The drives to (and from) work now include more multi-tasking; different & more errand stops, etc. More efficient use of the auto----a GOOD THING ?

4/22/2005 9:47 AM  

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