Thruway Woes.

I drive the New York State Thruway a lot. It’s expensive (the toll works out to about 4 cents a mile), it’s a speed trap (and undoubtedly a revenue generator for the State), and poorly maintained.

Here’s a sample of what I see each week: Cops. Cars. Crap.

First, cops. There are Troopers EVERYWHERE on the Thruway. Typically, I pass about 3-4 in my 70 mile commute. The cops are always pulling folks over for speeding. Over the past 300 days of my commute, here are some statistics:

Number of hours I have spent commuting between LeRoy and Williamsville: about 160. Number of cars pulled over in those 160 hours: 123.
Number with out of town plates (New Jersey, Mass, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan are the most common, likely because they’re the folks least willing to be able to contest the ticket): 111.
Number of “assistance calls” observed (Troopers helping folks with disabled vehicles, etc.): 3.
Number of instances that I have clocked a Trooper or other marked Police car speeding, without lights on (in excess of 82mph): 271.
With lights on: 14.

Cars are everywhere on the Thruway. Disabled vehicles number high, primarily because the Thruway holds on monopoly of sorts on rescue and assistance vehicles.
Average number of disabled vehicles per commute: 1.72
Average number of times person is sitting in vehicle: .807
Average number of times person is standing outside vehicle: .221
Average number of times Trooper or Police are either present or assisting: .00071

Crap also abounds on the Thruway. The problems run deep and wide, especially in comparison to other State Turnpike systems:
Per commute, average number of dead animals (“roadkill”) that I see: 4.985
Average length of construction sites: 14.2 miles
Average number of construction workers per site: 17
Average number of Trooper vehicles present at each construction site of: 1.67
Average number of plows observed on days with >3″ of snow: .241
Typical number of days with unsafe road conditions due to snow: 7

In contrast to neighboring States, the NYS Thruway, does a HORRIBLE — JUST TERRIBLE — job of reporting traffic conditions and road conditions. VDOT (the Vermont Department of Transportation) has a cell-phone based service that works kind of like OnStar. (I might add that Vermont has no Interstate toll roads). MASS Pike has a series of low power radio stations that broadcast a clear and informative message. Pennsylvania Turnpike has similarly well-maintained and informative means of communicating to drivers. The NYS Thruway has a series of crappy, low-power radio stations that are NEVER updated and impossible to decipher. In addition, the toll collectors are not only miserable but clearly unconcerned with driver safety or road conditions.

I fully support the article published in today’s Buffalo News. The NYS Thurway authority stopped providing customer service years ago, and it exists solely to collect tolls to bolster its own continued existence. My suggestion: Dump the Authority and put the Thruway under state control, directly — making it accountable to work with municipalities across the state to make the Thruway the model mode of transportation it was envisioned to be — because clearly, after more than 50 years, the Thruway authority has proved, they just can’t hack it.

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