Giving up on the zipper merge

Now that the election is over and most of the world’s problems have been solved, perhaps we can take some time to consider the zipper merge.

Listen to me, MnDOT, I get how the zipper merge is supposed to work, the problem is the people who don’t.

Last evening, for example, I was driving on I-694 in the Oakdale area where, because of construction, the highway narrows to one lane. Perhaps a mile from the merge point, an SUV — sporting a Marine sticker, an NRA sticker, and a Florida Gators decal, just in case that was someone you know — played the role that decent, civilized people dread — the merge cop.

He drove down the middle of the lane stripe, so nobody could pass him on the left or the right, though several people tried. And, thus, a bigger backup was born.

According to some traffic engineers, traffic moves 15 percent faster by using the zipper merge, not that Mr. Florida Gator guy would know.

But is it worth the road rage?

Consider this comment from a Minnesotan at Tom Vanderbilt’s website promoting his book, “How We Drive.”

The problems arise when everybody but a few merge early, and then people play lane cop trying to not let the “late” mergers in. Every lane closure here in MN these days has signs saying “Use both lanes until merge point.” in an effort to break people of the habit of early merging, but it’s an uphill battle because everybody thinks they know better then the traffic engineers who study this sort of thing for a living.

Personally I merge early, but solely to avoid the irrational anger and potential violent outbursts of the lane vigilantes.

The answer here seems obvious, as indicated in this video. Paint “stay in your lane” stripes until the very last minute…

Unless something changes soon, the zipper merge is going to be this century’s conversion to the metric system in the ’70s. Great idea, made perfect sense, and was dead on arrival.