Only In America . . . TM

Copyright © 2002 Frank G. Van Atta. All rights reserved.


The city of Mossville, Washington (pop. 483,000) doesn't have traffic jams or long commutes to and from work in their city any more, because they only allow people to drive cars every other day.

"We used to have the worst traffic jams in the state," J.T. Slicktire, Director of the Mossville Department of Transportation, told reporters. "Mossvile was known as the Gridlock Capitol of Washington, a city where the average commute was more than an hour, and walking was quicker than driving for any distance less than ten miles."

That was before MossDOT took action. Last year they passed the Alternate Driving Days (ADD) resolution that immediately cut the amount of traffic on the road in half: cars with odd-numbered license plates are only allowed to drive on odd-numbered days; and cars with even-numbered plates can only drive on even-numbered days.

"People resisted the idea at first," J.T. said, "but they soon discovered that driving in Mossville was a lot less traumatic than it had been. Then they became enthusiastic supporters of ADD."

There was still some grumbling, especially from those who had to commute back and forth to work every day. But MossDOT had an answer for that problem, too -- the UniDirectional Traffic (UDT) Plan: during the morning rush hours all roads are one way leading into the city; during the afternoon rush hour the direction is reversed, and all traffic is one way out of the city. The combination of ADD and UDT has reduced the average commute in Mossville to less than 10 minutes, so nobody really minds that they have to carpool or ride public transportation every other day.

Once the traffic congestion problem was under control, MossDOT was asked to address the traffic safety problem. They did so by using the same creative thinking that brought the commute problem to its knees and managed to reduce traffic accidents by more than 80% in record time.

"Actually, the answer to the safety problem was really pretty simple," Slicktire explained. "Since traffic accidents are caused almost entirely by cross traffic -- either stopping to let it pass or trying to turn across it -- you can eliminate the problem by eliminating the cross traffic."

So the city fathers did exactly that. They instituted an Alternating Traffic Flow (ATF) policy that restricts all traffic to either an East-West or North-South direction, and alternates between the two choices every five minutes.

This simple concept has been dubbed NO3 or NO Cubed -- NO cross traffic: NO hazard: NO accidents -- and is being seriously considered by cities all across the state.

Meanwhile, back at MossDOT, they aren't just sitting on their hands. To reduce congestion even further, they are planning to implement ATF2, which will allow traffic to move in only one direction at a time: Northbound for the first 5 minutes, Eastbound for the next 5 minutes, then 5 minutes Southbound and, finally, 5 minutes of Westbound traffic. Then the whole pattern repeats, going through the entire cycle 3 times every hour.

"By the time ATF2 is fully implemented, we will be able to remove most traffic lights and all traffic control signage," Slicktire said. "This will get 50 people off of the city payroll and save Mossvile more than 30 million dollars a year."

In honor of the ADD, UDT, ATF and ATF2 systems, MossDOT has adopted a new motto: Safer streets are cheaper streets.

Copyright © 2002 Frank G. Van Atta. All rights reserved.