The Merge Wars, Revisited

From New Jersey, the state that give birth to Traffic, comes this appraisal of late and early merging (yes, I’m quoted), bound to be a issue this year as stimulus spending drops a torrent of orange cones across the Garden State.

This entry was posted on Friday, August 7th, 2009 at 9:54 am and is filed under Roads, Traffic Culture, Traffic Engineering. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

7 Responses to “The Merge Wars, Revisited”

  1. John Says:

    Two factors here–

    1. Yes, you merge late– why? Uses more available space at similar speeds. In other words, all of the traffic is getting closer to the point where you can again go faster. And, at the end of the merge, there is more of a factor of “the driver HAS to let you in.” This is such a certainty that there could be a sign saying “MERGE LATE.”

    2. Courtesy– I open my window and add a hand signal, with a thank you wave, when I need to merge, or when someone lets me in, or even when I’m not sure of the other drivers’ intention. in fact, I use this a number of times when entering a highway.

    3. After reading the posts for this article quoted by Mister Vanderbilt, and seeing the misanthropic ones, I might add that I can merge in front of any of these people with the techniques mentioned, and it would not even occur to them that it was a problem– just another person that they let in. You have to outsmart everyone on the road.

  2. Niall Says:

    Had an experience yesterday of an articulated truck try to drive into me, when I was going past him (heading for a late merge of course)
    Why do some early-mergers feel such a homicidal instinct against late-mergers?

  3. HB - Amsterdam Says:

    Funny thing that in the Netherlands the government tries to, with TV and billboard ads, make people use both lines until the final merging area where it will say “merge from this point”.
    Strangely enough most people tend to move over already when it has the “merging in 2km” sign…
    I try to drive all the way to the end because, like John wrote, traffic moves better there. However, sometimes people do have a hard time letting me in.

  4. Bill T. Says:

    I like to look at this from a biological perspective. Early merging is in some sense a form of altruism — giving up that extra 2000 feet of progress in the name of fairness. However, for altruism to be successful, you need a way to weed out the cheats. There’s a word for those who practice altruism without a way to catch cheaters: “suckers”.

    Then again, some people just find it easier to merge early and not worry about it.

  5. Bill T. Says:

    Make that “biology” rather than “biological” in the preceding — d’oh!

  6. Wayne M. Says:

    Niall, you ask:
    I am in this boat sometimes and sometimes not. When I am an early-merger, I feel like I am following the rule and those who do not follow the rule are in some way cheating me personally. Not a good feeling.

    But I prefer late-merging as a standard way of merging. I need to say that the situation could be solved by a small sign change. Instead of showing a merge-left or a merge-right, show both lanes ending and funnel into a center shared lane. First the driver does not know which lane will be ended so he may stay in his lane. Second, at the merge point, instruction needs to be given to merge every other car.

    Late merging has several advantages, some already mentioned previously, but it also has advantage of eliminating the cheated feeling of those rule-followers whom get passed by someone speeding along while they are stopped and watching them breeze by and are thinking: “HA! He is not getting in front of me.”

    The disadvantage is the enforcing courteously needed to merge every other car. Once this can be accomplished, late merging would remove as much frustration as possible in the traffic merge realm.

  7. Wayne M. Says:

    For some reason the quote from Niall was omitted, I expect it was an html thing. The quote omitted was: Why do some early-mergers feel such a homicidal instinct against late-mergers?

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Traffic Tom Vanderbilt

How We Drive is the companion blog to Tom Vanderbilt’s New York Times bestselling book, Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do (and What It Says About Us), published by Alfred A. Knopf in the U.S. and Canada, Penguin in the U.K, and in languages other than English by a number of other fine publishers worldwide.

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