Magazine article The New Yorker

ROUND-TRIP; DEPT. OF TRANSPORTATION Series: 2/4

Magazine article The New Yorker

ROUND-TRIP; DEPT. OF TRANSPORTATION Series: 2/4

Article excerpt

It's one thing to get stuck in traffic, and another to seek it out. The mind, accustomed to devoting all its powers to avoiding traffic jams, bucks at the prospect of being stuck in one on purpose.

So a slight adjustment was called for last week, when the Ford Motor Company staged a race, of sorts, on the major arteries leading into Manhattan, for the purpose of determining which route was most congested during the morning commute. A round of voting on the Web had narrowed down the candidates from thirty to a very worthy five: I-78 in New Jersey, approaching the Holland Tunnel; the Long Island Expressway, leading to the Queens Midtown Tunnel; I-95 North, approaching the George Washington Bridge; plus one sticky patch each from the Connecticut Turnpike and the Hutchinson River Parkway. Ford dispatched a manned Escape Hybrid S.U.V. to each one, with orders to the drivers to stay in the middle lane and stick at or below the speed limit. The winning route would be the one that was slowest, with style points awarded to the car with the best gas mileage--the purpose of this whole exercise being to bring attention to the fuel efficiency of the Hybrid (it runs on both gas and battery power, and the battery recharges when you hit the brakes).

Everyone has his own pet stretch of highway hell, but, among traffic connoisseurs, the early money was on the westbound stretch of the L.I.E., from Exit 25 in, and so it was that at 6:58 a.m. last Tuesday, an L.I.E. partisan, having called shotgun, installed himself in the passenger seat of a Hybrid bound for a traffic jam in Queens. The pickup was at Tavern on the Green, in Central Park. At the wheel, exhibiting a feathery touch with the accelerator, was Steve Kroswek, of an event-planning company called Motor City Solutions. In back, exhibiting great enthusiasm for the Hybrid, was Christine Feuell, of Ford. They were both from Detroit.

Almost immediately, on the way to reach the traffic, there was traffic. About this kind of traffic, not much good can be said; the despair of sitting in it does not slacken at the sight, across the median, of the congestion that awaits you going in the other direction, even if that congestion is, strictly speaking, what you're after. …

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