Baltimore Traffic: (Not) A Love Letter
This is for anyone who has ever sat in traffic… particularly for those who have had the misfortune of moving their vehicle more than one block in Baltimore.
This is the angry, and after two glasses of wine, drunk text to the Baltimore traffic system. Baltimore, babe, I love you, but we need to talk.
A few weeks ago, I faced a decision I make pretty regularly: to go ahead and risk blocking the intersection, or to stay put and wait for the next green light. I opted for the former, which left me in my usual state of dread at the intersection of Light and Conway, but this time was a little different. I heard the driver behind me erupt into a rage I could only describe as mythological in intensity. I heard a man scream through my closed windows and his closed windows. That day, you broke that man.
For several reasons, particularly fear, I thought I might have died at that intersection. Honestly, I expect that I will most likely die at that intersection… not by the hand of another person, but because I simply spend most of my time there, so it’s just probable. Either I would eat myself alive, or a metal lunchbox would fall on me from the towering construction crane looming above. It would be nice to use my sunroof, so I could hear the screams of my fellow Baltimoreans descending into madness, but I don’t want to get smushed.
On some days, on holy days, traffic officers will direct traffic, saving us from drowning in anarchy. To be clear, we’re still drowning a little bit, but it’s in a puddle, a puddle of anarchy, because we don’t know how to behave like adults. Those fluorescent angels are my saving grace. If I were mayor, I would give them bazookas, so they could encourage cars to move out of the intersection.
They tend to appear during Orioles games… the tremors of which I can feel 20 miles away when I get onto I-95. For those of you not familiar with Baltimore, the baseball stadium is right next to where all the traffic comes in. It’s on Conway and Howard, but it really has more of a purgatory vibe. It’s pretty chill. There, people come in droves, adorned in orange, to pay tribute to America’s greatest pastime: poor city planning.
Getting through that intersection is no small feat, but it’s not the last trick up your sleeve, Baltimore. To get through one light is to stop at another. The drive through Baltimore is a journey between never-ending vortexes of traffic. Your destiny is determined by a random number generator.
Honestly, a random number generator would be better than whatever you have in place now. It’s like someone’s toddler designed the traffic-light system, and instead of putting it up on the fridge, y’all put it on the grid… but what actually happened is some city planner gave control of the traffic system to some trickster god or a character in Alice in Wonderland, in exchange for what? Duck-fat tater tots? (Real talk, those are some sick tots.)
You may say “other cities are worse,” and that would be true. The other day I was in DC and had to take a bus between Metro stops. It took an hour to go three stops. I thought about taking the chariot of snails I saw in the street, but, as I said to the frog in the top-hat that offered me the ride, “buses are faster than snails.” I was wrong. I am sorry I refused you, frog.
While DC may have no hope, Baltimore can be better. I don’t understand why I have to wait at a red light for 3 minutes at 11pm on a Tuesday with no other cars around me… then when I get through that light, the next one turns red as soon as I get to it. Why do you torment me, Baltimore?
Seriously, why isn’t it better? Why are the lights improperly timed? Why are intersection wait-times weighted improperly at all times of the day? Why don’t the lights account for traffic flow on one-way streets? Why don’t pedestrian-heavy crossing have better signs? Why are actual crossings so unfriendly to pedestrians in residential parts of town.
Baltimore, I love you. I love the Bay, the weird fixation on crabs, and the kickball leagues, but I do not love the traffic.
Get it together.