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mastakebob
07-23-2013, 03:07 PM
Is there a minimum amount of time you have to leave a CaBi bike docked before the 30 minute timer resets? For instance, if I'm on a trip that I know will last longer than 30 minutes, can I find a station at the 29 minute mark, dock the bike, and then immediately undock the bike and continue on for another 30 minutes? Or do I have to wait for the bike to 'cool down' for some period of time before undocking it?

Is there a term for this strategy?

Tim Kelley
07-23-2013, 03:19 PM
"Daisy-chaining." No, there is no time limit before you can check it out again.

I'm interested in the etiquette of what one would be done if you were riding and came to an empty station where someone was already waiting for a bike to be returned and you were just checking in to extended your time. Would you feel bad taking their ride from them?

DaveK
07-23-2013, 03:19 PM
Is there a minimum amount of time you have to leave a CaBi bike docked before the 30 minute timer resets? For instance, if I'm on a trip that I know will last longer than 30 minutes, can I find a station at the 29 minute mark, dock the bike, and then immediately undock the bike and continue on for another 30 minutes? Or do I have to wait for the bike to 'cool down' for some period of time before undocking it?

Is there a term for this strategy?

Totally legit. I don't know that it has a name... dock hopping?

Mark Blacknell
07-23-2013, 03:32 PM
Just FYI, this lack of a reset time varies by city. Found myself surprised (and annoyed) by a reset time in Montréal. And since I'm complaining about Montréal, their CaBis have shorter seatposts, too.

TwoWheelsDC
07-23-2013, 03:47 PM
Just FYI, this lack of a reset time varies by city. Found myself surprised (and annoyed) by a reset time in Montréal. And since I'm complaining about Montréal, their CaBis have shorter seatposts, too.

Agreed...Paris I think was 5 minutes and in NYC there were a couple of times where the kiosks made us wait 2 minutes but, oddly, this only happened a handful of times...most times we were able to get a new code and re-check out our bikes immediately (yes, we definitely dock-hopped). Also, the seatposts on Citibikes are really tight and it takes some serious muscle to move the saddle up/down.

mstone
07-23-2013, 03:53 PM
Also, the seatposts on Citibikes are really tight and it takes some serious muscle to move the saddle up/down.

They do start out really tight, but they'll get looser over time.

TwoWheelsDC
07-23-2013, 03:55 PM
they do start out really tight, but they'll get looser over time.

twss.

Steve
07-23-2013, 07:36 PM
Agreed...Paris I think was 5 minutes.

Side question: did you have a European chip credit card, or did you just get your day passes online?

TwoWheelsDC
07-23-2013, 07:38 PM
Side question: did you have a European chip credit card, or did you just get your day passes online?

Got them online. I like that, as opposed to the CaBi and CitiBike, the code is your code for the whole day, no getting a new code every time you dock a bike.

Speaking of chipped cards, I really hope US banks start offering these standard...not having one in Europe is a serious pain in the ass.

PotomacCyclist
07-23-2013, 08:25 PM
In some cases, the first person might be docking the bike at a midpoint station on his planned route. If he gives up the bike, then he would have no way to bike to the next station. If it's at a location far from Metro (like the Jefferson Memorial), this could be a problem.

rcannon100
07-23-2013, 08:35 PM
The onus is on CABI to keep the system balanced and functioning. Docks with no bikes - or docks that are blocked - that's the responsibility of CABI to properly design and operate the system. It's not the customers fault - and there should be no suggestion that it is the customers responsibility. If we get to the point where the system is dysfunctional.... and we are blaming the customer.... that's when you should be selling your stock in the system.

ronwalf
07-23-2013, 10:38 PM
[QUOTE=Tim Kelley;58757I'm interested in the etiquette of what one would be done if you were riding and came to an empty station where someone was already waiting for a bike to be returned and you were just checking in to extended your time. Would you feel bad taking their ride from them?[/QUOTE]

Clear etiquette (to me) is that the person waiting gets the next bike. If I'm late enough that I can't handle this, then the answer is to pay extended use fee.

dasgeh
07-24-2013, 08:06 AM
Clear etiquette (to me) is that the person waiting gets the next bike. If I'm late enough that I can't handle this, then the answer is to pay extended use fee.

I disagree. As rcannon points out, an empty dock is CaBi's fault for failing to adequately rebalance. If I just roll by, the waiting person still doesn't get a bike and I have to pay more. Why should I have to pay more because CaBi failed to adequately rebalance? That would actually incentivize CaBi to not adequately rebalance.

Tim Kelley
07-24-2013, 08:26 AM
I disagree. As rcannon points out, an empty dock is CaBi's fault for failing to adequately rebalance. If I just roll by, the waiting person still doesn't get a bike and I have to pay more. Why should I have to pay more because CaBi failed to adequately rebalance? That would actually incentivize CaBi to not adequately rebalance.

Empty and full stations are going to happen. There are plenty of times during rush hour where the situation I described this could happen easily regardless of how well the system is rebalanced.

mstone
07-24-2013, 10:04 AM
Skirting the extended use fee isn't some kind of right, and holding a bike for an extended period misses the point of bike share (versus bike rental). If someone is waiting for a bike and you're too cheap to pay the fee, it should be their turn. Presumably cabi can add a timeout if people become too abusive of the current configuration.

ShawnoftheDread
07-24-2013, 10:10 AM
I don't know what the right answer is, but I do know if I was riding up to an empty station and saw someone waiting for a bike, I'd keep riding and eat the fee.

dasgeh
07-24-2013, 10:50 AM
Skirting the extended use fee isn't some kind of right, and holding a bike for an extended period misses the point of bike share (versus bike rental). If someone is waiting for a bike and you're too cheap to pay the fee, it should be their turn. Presumably cabi can add a timeout if people become too abusive of the current configuration.

But daisy-chaining is a right under the current CaBi setup. Maybe they should add a waiting time (honestly, 60 seconds should work for this purpose), but under the current system, paying the fee just lines CaBi's pockets when they have empty docks.

Tim Kelley
07-24-2013, 11:03 AM
paying the fee just lines CaBi's pockets when they have empty docks.

Ah yes, lining the pockets of an big faceless corporation that would just go and use the money to cover operating and expansion expenses...

dasgeh
07-24-2013, 11:14 AM
Ah yes, lining the pockets of an big faceless corporation that would just go and use the money to cover operating and expansion expenses...

Fair enough.

ShawnoftheDread
07-24-2013, 11:18 AM
But daisy-chaining is a right under the current CaBi setup. Maybe they should add a waiting time (honestly, 60 seconds should work for this purpose), but under the current system, paying the fee just lines CaBi's pockets when they have empty docks.

Is it a "right" or simply an ability?

rcannon100
07-24-2013, 11:27 AM
Ah yes, lining the pockets of an big faceless corporation that would just go and use the money to cover operating and expansion expenses...

If ALTA and CABI are having difficulty with their revenue model, then ALTA and CABI needs to solve that problem. This still does not put the blame on the customer for either empty docks or blocked docks. The behavior described is perfectly legitimate under the terms of service. And given the mesh network, the need to use a bike for 35 minutes, instead of 30 minutes, to get across the network, is reasonable. It is a behavior permitted by the terms of service and the design of the system. If ALTA and CABI cannot support and maintain the system (both in terms of revenue and in terms of maintaining it), then ALTA and CABI needs to solve the problem - not the customer.

Tim Kelley
07-24-2013, 11:36 AM
The behavior described is perfectly legitimate under the terms of service.

So you would do the dock/undock process and keep riding to save the $1.50? And if the person waiting for the bike approached you, you would tell them to take it up with the operators?

rcannon100
07-24-2013, 11:37 AM
Is it a "right" or simply an ability?

It is right of a party to a contract - here the contract being the terms of service. It is also a feature that CABI regularly promotes. We are CABI Silver partners and goDCgo has participated in several marketing events. In those events, this behavior of checking in and checking back out again, is a feature that goDCgo has repeatedly promoted.

rcannon100
07-24-2013, 11:42 AM
So you would do the dock/undock process and keep riding to save the $1.50? And if the person waiting for the bike approached you, you would tell them to take it up with the operators?

I would participate in a forum in which I have this perception that CABI contractors are listening - and tell them - dont blame customers if they are failing to maintain the system properly. If you have sold subscriptions to a service with representations of how that service will work - it is your responsibility to fulfill your obligations.

WMATA doesnt get to blame riders when WMATA fails. Should CABI be allowed to do so?

The ability of CABI to operate the system - to prevent dock blocks or empty docks - will be directly reflected in consumer value of the system. If the system struggles to be balanced, customers will place a lower value on the system. Much like the reliability issues of WMATA, the value of CABI as a transportation solution will go down. As a matter of transportation public policy, this is a problem. If CABI is to be part of the smart growth, transportation system - it needs to function properly and as it represents to the public that it will do. The moment CABI starts blame shifting and suggesting that it is customer misbehavior at the root here - when CABI has failed to balance the system - we have a problem. If using CABI results in customer moral dilemmas about who gets to use a scarce resource, then CABI will no longer be a viable transportation solution. CABI as a value to customers who are simply trying to get across the city will go down.

Tim Kelley
07-24-2013, 11:47 AM
I would participate in a forum in which I have this perception that CABI contractors are listening - and tell them - dont blame customers if they are failing to maintain the system properly. If you have sold subscriptions to a service with representations of how that service will work - it is your responsibility to fulfill your obligations.

WMATA doesnt get to blame riders when WMATA fails. Should CABI be allowed to do so?

That didn't answer my question. Would you do the dock/undock process and keep riding to save the $1.50? And then my original question from the first page was: Would you feel bad taking their ride from them?

It seems we've gotten off topic--I'm more interesting in how the cycling community would act/respond in certain situations than who is to blame if a station if full.

Dickie
07-24-2013, 12:13 PM
If you see someone waiting for a CABI and you dock, wait, and then take the bike back out again to save a few bucks the question shouldn't be "are you within your rights"? The question should be "are you OK being a jerk"? It's a similar action to those folks that ignore the giant flashing construction arrow on the highway and drive past everyone before forcing a merge at the very last second.... You know....screw everyone else to save a few minutes, dollars, etc.... because I matter most!

bobco85
07-24-2013, 12:23 PM
I think proper social etiquette would be to give up your ride if you decide to return it to a docking station in non-emergency cases. When I dock a CaBi bike, in my head the bike is no longer "mine." If I was running late or some other emergency, I would just eat the $1.50 and avoid docking as it would waste time.

The reason I came to this conclusion is by imagining myself as the person waiting for a bike at an empty CaBi station. You see someone roll up and dock their bike, so you walk over to get the bike since you're "next" only to see the person undock and take off with what you thought was "your" bike. It's a total d*** move, but completely within the rules that CaBi has created and promoted.

dasgeh
07-24-2013, 12:36 PM
That didn't answer my question. Would you do the dock/undock process and keep riding to save the $1.50? And then my original question from the first page was: Would you feel bad taking their ride from them?

It seems we've gotten off topic--I'm more interesting in how the cycling community would act/respond in certain situations than who is to blame if a station if full.

But you haven't taken "their ride from them". It was never their ride. You've got the bike. The only thing that changes if you pull up to a station to daisy chain v. continuing on is that you get charged. Either way, waiting guy is left waiting.

If you pulled up to the waiting guy and said "I'm not done with my ride. I can either daisy-chain or pay an extra $1.50. Which would you prefer?" Wouldn't he be the jerk if he asked you to eat the $1.50?

I do think the polite this is to say something to the effect of "sorry, man, I'm just daisy-chaining"

dasgeh
07-24-2013, 12:39 PM
If you see someone waiting for a CABI and you dock, wait, and then take the bike back out again to save a few bucks the question shouldn't be "are you within your rights"? The question should be "are you OK being a jerk"? It's a similar action to those folks that ignore the giant flashing construction arrow on the highway and drive past everyone before forcing a merge at the very last second.... You know....screw everyone else to save a few minutes, dollars, etc.... because I matter most!

Ah, this argument. The process that would be most efficient for all is for everyone to slow to a safe speed, and for the people in the disappearing lane to merge at the last second. Unfortunately, lots of people merge early, then get all righteous on the people that are using the available asphalt. [**Note: if those people are using the available asphalt at unsafe speeds, I agree they're jerks**] Being efficient does not make me a jerk.

KLizotte
07-24-2013, 12:45 PM
I would participate in a forum in which I have this perception that CABI contractors are listening - and tell them - dont blame customers if they are failing to maintain the system properly. If you have sold subscriptions to a service with representations of how that service will work - it is your responsibility to fulfill your obligations.

WMATA doesnt get to blame riders when WMATA fails. Should CABI be allowed to do so?

The ability of CABI to operate the system - to prevent dock blocks or empty docks - will be directly reflected in consumer value of the system. If the system struggles to be balanced, customers will place a lower value on the system. Much like the reliability issues of WMATA, the value of CABI as a transportation solution will go down. As a matter of transportation public policy, this is a problem. If CABI is to be part of the smart growth, transportation system - it needs to function properly and as it represents to the public that it will do. The moment CABI starts blame shifting and suggesting that it is customer misbehavior at the root here - when CABI has failed to balance the system - we have a problem. If using CABI results in customer moral dilemmas about who gets to use a scarce resource, then CABI will no longer be a viable transportation solution. CABI as a value to customers who are simply trying to get across the city will go down.

But CaBi is different from WMATA due to its sharing aspect. I think of CaBi as more like a library than a subway system. A library's utility goes down if people deface the books and routinely check out books for the longest period possible through multiple renewals even when they are not in need of the books they have borrowed. In fact, some libraries do not let you renew if someone has put a hold on the item you have checked out. Perhaps CaBi could employ the same rule?

If I saw someone waiting for a bike at a docking station I would not dock/undock to save a few bucks. That's like cutting in line if you ask me.

jopamora
07-24-2013, 12:46 PM
Ah, this argument. The process that would be most efficient for all is for everyone to slow to a safe speed, and for the people in the disappearing lane to merge at the last second. Unfortunately, lots of people merge early, then get all righteous on the people that are using the available asphalt. [**Note: if those people are using the available asphalt at unsafe speeds, I agree they're jerks**] Being efficient does not make me a jerk.

The zipper merge is bestest.

dasgeh
07-24-2013, 12:52 PM
through multiple renewals even when they are not in need of the books they have borrowed. In fact, some libraries do not let you renew if someone has put a hold on the item you have checked out. Perhaps CaBi could employ the same rule?

If I saw someone waiting for a bike at a docking station I would not dock/undock to save a few bucks. That's like cutting in line if you ask me.

I like the library analogy, though the person using the CaBi is actually in need of the bike to get to their destination. And yes, CaBi could institute that rule (as we've said -- they'd just put a waiting period on to daisy chain), but they haven't. In fact, they seem to advertise the daisy-chaining ability.

And with the cutting in line - it's really not, unless you're saying that not only would you not daisy chain, but that you'd give up the bike. I.e. ride over to the station A, where you intend to dock/undock so you can get to station B, then when you see someone at station A say "whoops, here you go" and wait. Most people seem to say they'd just pay the extra $$.

If I were waiting, I wouldn't want someone to pay more just because I was there waiting -- either way I wait.

ShawnoftheDread
07-24-2013, 12:54 PM
Ah, this argument. The process that would be most efficient for all is for everyone to slow to a safe speed, and for the people in the disappearing lane to merge at the last second. Unfortunately, lots of people merge early, then get all righteous on the people that are using the available asphalt. [**Note: if those people are using the available asphalt at unsafe speeds, I agree they're jerks**] Being efficient does not make me a jerk.

Obviously the best thing is for everyone to merge exactly where I merged -- neither earlier like idiots or later like jerks!

KLizotte
07-24-2013, 12:56 PM
But you haven't taken "their ride from them". It was never their ride. You've got the bike. The only thing that changes if you pull up to a station to daisy chain v. continuing on is that you get charged. Either way, waiting guy is left waiting.

If you pulled up to the waiting guy and said "I'm not done with my ride. I can either daisy-chain or pay an extra $1.50. Which would you prefer?" Wouldn't he be the jerk if he asked you to eat the $1.50?

I do think the polite this is to say something to the effect of "sorry, man, I'm just daisy-chaining"

I disagree because everyone is entitled to a free 30 minutes after that you should be paying for the extra time, at least when someone is waiting. *It's no longer your bike when you redock.* It is back in the "system" and the only reason you got to use it again is because you cut in line (a.k.a. were standing right next to the bike). Taken to the extreme, what you are saying is that it would be ok for someone who lives next to a docking station to keep the bike in his or her backyard and re-dock every 30 minutes so as to always have a bike on hand for his or her own personal use. Just because something is legal, doesn't make it morally right.

Steve
07-24-2013, 01:04 PM
Totally agree with KLizotte. Daisy-chaining doesn't really exist. You can't just ride by a docking station and get 30 more minutes. What you do is check the bike back in, and then check it out. When you check a bike in, you get in line. Often, there isn't a line because there are ample bikes, but if there is a line, then you get in it.

Tim Kelley
07-24-2013, 01:09 PM
I do think the polite this is to say something to the effect of "sorry, man, I'm just daisy-chaining"

Yeah, that's what I would probably do if I pulled up and then realized someone was waiting. And I'd sheepishly feel bad about it.

dasgeh
07-24-2013, 01:10 PM
I disagree because everyone is entitled to a free 30 minutes after that you should be paying for the extra time, at least when someone is waiting. *It's no longer your bike when you redock.* It is back in the "system" and the only reason you got to use it again is because you cut in line (a.k.a. were standing right next to the bike). Taken to the extreme, what you are saying is that it would be ok for someone who lives next to a docking station to keep the bike in his or her backyard and re-dock every 30 minutes so as to always have a bike on hand for his or her own personal use. Just because something is legal, doesn't make it morally right.

But CaBi explains that you can daisy-chain for longer rides (I haven't researched this one, just going on rcannon's statements and a vague recollection of that explanation from CaBi people back in the day). I wouldn't agree that your example is an extreme of this line of argument because the person with the bike in the yard isn't riding it.

My understanding of the rules is that daisy-chaining is a-ok. Therefore, I don't think someone is a jerk for following the rules. For example, I could imagine needing to get across town, somewhere that takes me just at 30 min to get to. To be safe, I then alter my route to take me by another station so I can daisy chain. I check to see if there are open docks, but I can't check to see if there are waiting people. Should I then be punished for that?

It's one thing to say you disagree with a rule. It's another to say that someone is a jerk for following the rule you disagree with. This isn't really morals or laws.

KLizotte
07-24-2013, 01:15 PM
It's one thing to say you disagree with a rule. It's another to say that someone is a jerk for following the rule you disagree with. This isn't really morals or laws.

It's called civility.

There is no law dictating that people have to give up their seats on metro or buses for pregnant women or people walking with crutches but I think we can all agree that it is a nice thing to do.

Steve
07-24-2013, 01:24 PM
A little bit of a side point, I noticed that the Paris Velib has two year long subscription choices, one for 30 minutes free and one for 45. I wonder if CaBi will ever do the same. It seems like it'd be a hit, especially as CaBi expands to slightly farther reaching locations. Even just from somewhere like Ballston, those extra 15 minutes would increase the number of CaBi stations that I could reach by quite a bit. For $10 more a year or so, I think most would go for the premium subscription.

83(b)
07-24-2013, 01:26 PM
I believe that a reasonable case can be advanced for every position advocated in this thread, except:



WMATA doesnt get to blame riders when WMATA fails.

That's crazy, of course they do (http://unsuckdcmetro.blogspot.com/2013/02/metro-contemplates-arresting-riders-for.html)!

ShawnoftheDread
07-24-2013, 01:31 PM
It's true that CaBi does advertise the ability to "daisy-chain," but as far as I know they are silent as to whether you should get in line (if there is one) when you do so. It just seems rude to dock a bike and then take it again when someone is waiting.

And if CaBi were to implement a short waiting time for taking a bike back out, that might just make conflict more likely without solving the problem -- instead of leaving right away, a would-be daisy-chainer would sit on the bike and wait, making it more likely for any waiters to call him on it.

ShawnoftheDread
07-24-2013, 01:33 PM
I believe that a reasonable case can be advanced for every position advocated in this thread, except:



That's crazy, of course they do (http://unsuckdcmetro.blogspot.com/2013/02/metro-contemplates-arresting-riders-for.html)!

They also blame walkers for their glut of craptastic elevators. And I'm guessing the number of delays caused by a "sick customer" is much lower than the number attributed to such.

KLizotte
07-24-2013, 01:58 PM
Ah, this argument. The process that would be most efficient for all is for everyone to slow to a safe speed, and for the people in the disappearing lane to merge at the last second. Unfortunately, lots of people merge early, then get all righteous on the people that are using the available asphalt. [**Note: if those people are using the available asphalt at unsafe speeds, I agree they're jerks**] Being efficient does not make me a jerk.

The bike shoalers defense.

mstone
07-24-2013, 02:18 PM
If cabi is specifically saying that you can redock a bike, then check it out again while other people are lined up waiting, I'd like to see a citation. I think that is rather more than they've said, and this is a straw man argument to deflect attention from what should be a simple question of civil behavior rather than an appeal to authority.

dasgeh
07-24-2013, 02:28 PM
It's called civility.

There is no law dictating that people have to give up their seats on metro or buses for pregnant women or people walking with crutches but I think we can all agree that it is a nice thing to do.

You're right. There's no law. There's also no law about daisy-chaining.

There are, however, rules (http://www.wmata.com/rail/railrules.cfm). If CaBi has rules that allow me to do something, and advertises that I do it, I don't think I should be called a jerk for doing it. A person, having seen CaBi promote daisy-chaining, may plan a ride that involves daisy-chaining. May even go out of their way to d-c. Once they get to the mid-way station, if there's someone waiting on a bike, they have 2 options: 1) continue with the plan they made based on CaBi's rules or 2) ride on, having to pay the fee. Either way, waiting person doesn't get a bike. I don't think the person should have to pay the fee when they based their expectation on CaBi's rules/advertising.

dasgeh
07-24-2013, 02:29 PM
The bike shoalers defense.

That's like saying taking free condoms is theft. One is safe, legal and better for all. The other is the opposite.

Tim Kelley
07-24-2013, 02:33 PM
I've got to say, I like the way this thread has gone. Lots of interesting points back and forth!

mstone
07-24-2013, 02:36 PM
That's like saying taking free condoms is theft. One is safe, legal and better for all. The other is the opposite.

Yeah, and since there's no limit by policy, there's no ethical issue in just taking the whole bin every time you go by and keeping them in your room in case you need them, right?

KLizotte
07-24-2013, 03:07 PM
That's like saying taking free condoms is theft. One is safe, legal and better for all. The other is the opposite.

WTF?! That makes no sense at all. Taking free condoms isn't theft in the most technical sense of the term because you haven't taken anything away from anyone else (what economists call rival, excludable goods) even though they may have positive externalities. Cutting in line, on the other hands, means that you have taken time (and space) from someone else. Non-toll highways are what economists call a non-excludable good that may or may not be rival depending on the congestion level. You seem to be mixing up the concepts of rivalry, excludability and externalities.

A bike shoaler will argue that there is asphalt at the start of the line that he or she can squeeze into ahead of everyone else therefore it is ok. Same as a car trying to squeeze into the front of the line by riding ahead in the disappearing lane. Maybe the drivers aren't being the most efficient users of the roadway but there is a reason why most people patiently waiting in line won't give way for a shoaling driver in most instances (fairness trumping efficiency).

dasgeh
07-24-2013, 03:28 PM
WTF?! That makes no sense at all. Taking free condoms isn't theft in the most technical sense of the term because you haven't taken anything away from anyone else (what economists call rival, excludable goods) even though they may have positive externalities. Cutting in line, on the other hands, means that you have taken time (and space) from someone else. Non-toll highways are what economists call a non-excludable good that may or may not be rival depending on the congestion level. You seem to be mixing up the concepts of rivalry, excludability and externalities.

A bike shoaler will argue that there is asphalt at the start of the line that he or she can squeeze into ahead of everyone else therefore it is ok. Same as a car trying to squeeze into the front of the line by riding ahead in the disappearing lane. Maybe the drivers aren't being the most efficient users of the roadway but there is a reason why most people patiently waiting in line won't give way for a shoaling driver in most instances (fairness trumping efficiency).

So all highways should be one-lane? Because that's the logical end to "merge as soon as you see the sign".

In Germany, where they have good driver's ed, they teach people that the most efficient and fair way to deal with the disappearing lane when there's traffic is to stay in your lane (disappearing or not) until the merge point, then zipper merge. Maximize use of the asphalt (when there's not traffic, it's safer to get over early, and maximizing asphalt use isn't a concern). And that's what most people do. Both lanes end up with the same average speed.

Here, people move out of the disappearing lane much earlier, then think that those people continuing on in the lane are somehow attacking them? If I'm in the disappearing lane, 2 miles from a merge point, and everyone else merges, am I supposed to merge, too, slowing all the people in the non-disappearing lane behind me? Or continue on at a safe speed until the merge point?

KLizotte
07-24-2013, 03:39 PM
So all highways should be one-lane? Because that's the logical end to "merge as soon as you see the sign".

In Germany, where they have good driver's ed, they teach people that the most efficient and fair way to deal with the disappearing lane when there's traffic is to stay in your lane (disappearing or not) until the merge point, then zipper merge. Maximize use of the asphalt (when there's not traffic, it's safer to get over early, and maximizing asphalt use isn't a concern). And that's what most people do. Both lanes end up with the same average speed.

Here, people move out of the disappearing lane much earlier, then think that those people continuing on in the lane are somehow attacking them? If I'm in the disappearing lane, 2 miles from a merge point, and everyone else merges, am I supposed to merge, too, slowing all the people in the non-disappearing lane behind me? Or continue on at a safe speed until the merge point?

I've always found that both lanes stay full until the merge point; what ticks people off is when shoalers use the break down lane or an exit lane then try to squeeze in. But very generally speaking, I think most folks would still think you are trying to cut in even if the merge lane wasn't being fully utilized because people tend to prioritize fairness over efficiency. For instance, I can get through the checkout line far faster than anyone with kiddies with them (or shopping carts filled with family sized amounts of stuff), does that give me the right to jump ahead of them? How about if all singletons jump to the front of the line at all times? As much as that might benefit me, I'm not advocating it (though I do wish the Mall's museums would offer adult-only hours).

dasgeh
07-24-2013, 03:49 PM
I've always found that both lanes stay full until the merge point; what ticks people off is when shoalers use the break down lane or an exit lane then try to squeeze in. But very generally speaking, I think most folks would still think you are trying to cut in even if the merge lane wasn't being fully utilized because people tend to prioritize fairness over efficiency.

You must never drive south. Starting pretty much at the Beltway and going South, I often see miles of open valid lane that will eventually close. That's what I've been talking about. Using the shoulder is illegal. This conversation started about a lane taken away by construction. In that situation, thinking that merging early is more fair is an illusion.

KLizotte
07-24-2013, 03:55 PM
In that situation, thinking that merging early is more fair is an illusion.

It may more inefficient from a through-put perspective, but it is fair because everyone is being inconvenienced equally. If efficiency were paramount, I'd be able to cut in front of you in every line because I'm faster.

dasgeh
07-24-2013, 04:17 PM
It may more inefficient from a through-put perspective, but it is fair because everyone is being inconvenienced equally. If efficiency were paramount, I'd be able to cut in front of you in every line because I'm faster.

That's silly. It makes everyone spend more time in the car, contributes to more air pollution, drives up costs of ... everything that relates to that stretch of road at that time. And everyone who is in the non-disappearing lane behind where you think I should merge (leaving open pavement) will go slower if I merge early. How is it fair to make me and everyone behind me go slower because some drivers want to merge early?

Those in that lane in front of me have the opportunity to get over and increase their average speed (and the average speed of everyone behind them).

KLizotte
07-24-2013, 05:43 PM
That's silly. It makes everyone spend more time in the car, contributes to more air pollution, drives up costs of ... everything that relates to that stretch of road at that time. And everyone who is in the non-disappearing lane behind where you think I should merge (leaving open pavement) will go slower if I merge early. How is it fair to make me and everyone behind me go slower because some drivers want to merge early?

Those in that lane in front of me have the opportunity to get over and increase their average speed (and the average speed of everyone behind them).

I can't say I've ever seen that in real life; only people using the break down lanes/exit lanes. If true however, then why are you complaining? You've got a free, unused lane all to yourself allowing you to bypass lots of traffic. If people refuse to let you in when the merging lane disappears, then perhaps you've violated a social norm or they think it isn't safe? More importantly, how is this argument any different from that of drivers getting furious when cyclists slow them down when they are taking the lane? Why should drivers have to incur the costs of slowing down because cyclists feel like going out for a joy ride utilizing vehicles that can't keep up with traffic? Sure, bikes aren't as polluting but cyclists could get exercise instead by walking/running on the sidewalk and they are the minority. I'm sure drivers get annoyed by events like kidical mass clogging up the roadways and parking lots.

And again, following your logic, the same could be said of people with strollers on metro. They take up more than their fair share of space, slow people down getting in/out of metro, screw up the flow on escalators, and are a safety risk in cases of emergency. Therefore, strollers should be banned (I'm sure lots of people would support this proposal during rush hour). It would certainly make the system more efficient. Drivers also shouldn't have to slow down around schools either since that isn't fair to them; safety *bah* - kids should be obeying the laws like everyone else and staying out of the road plus that its the parents' responsibility to keep them safe, not the drivers.

Be careful what you wish for.

mstone
07-24-2013, 06:02 PM
It may more inefficient from a through-put perspective, but it is fair because everyone is being inconvenienced equally. If efficiency were paramount, I'd be able to cut in front of you in every line because I'm faster.

It's not a fairness issue because it's not fair for you to feel holier-than-thou because you moved over unnecessarily early.

KLizotte
07-24-2013, 07:54 PM
It's not a fairness issue because it's not fair for you to feel holier-than-thou because you moved over unnecessarily early.

But she is arguing that there is an unused lane; if people want to use it they can and therefore go faster. Therefore, if people are choosing to all bunch up in one lane and go slower then obviously that is their choice (though what is "unnecessarily early" is debatable and bound to vary from one driver to the next). As I said before, I've *never* witnessed an empty lane like she describes (and really don't see how it could happen in real life) so I fail to understand why we are arguing about this very hypothetical situation. The closest I've seen are people trying to sneak to the front of the line by using a breakdown lane or using an exit lane - neither of which I condone from a safety and fairness point of view (though I can see how someone might accidentally use the exit lane). Also someone mentioned earlier that he doesn't merge too late so as to not to be accused of being a jerk so I presume most drivers may be merging a little earlier than necessary so as not to be perceived as cutting in line. Wow, drivers are trying to be civil to one another? Perhaps drivers are not acting in the most efficient manner (e.g, zippering at the last minute) but how can anyone find fault with politeness on the road? Likewise, why do we have a problem with shoaling but not with the same behavior on the road which is what these hypothetical empty lanes with a few cars advancing to the start of the line sounds like? Perhaps shoaling is more efficient after all?

All I've been trying to say is that there are many situations - Cabi, highways, standing in line at the grocery store, etc. - where everyone has to wait their turn irrespective of whether it is efficient from a system perspective or even necessarily 100% equitable (dasgeh is the one who mentioned that it wasn't fair to her that people were merging too soon). Sometimes technology can make things more efficient (exit metering for instance) but the rest of the time, people just have to suck it up for the good of humanity. If that means going slower on the highway for a while due to an accident or construction, so be it. It should also be pointed out that dasgeh proposed a perfectly reasonable and justifiable argument *against* allowing cyclists on the road (pollution, individuals causing others to have to slow down); I'm advocating for a far more consistent approach to all road users.

KLizotte
07-24-2013, 10:51 PM
I knew I had read something on this a long time ago. From the Federal Highway Operations Dept (it's a rather entertaining read - really!):

http://ops.fhwa.dot.gov/publications/fhwahop12012/sec2.htm

So You Think You Can Merge?

Are you a “profiteering” lane merger, who seeks only your own personal gain, or are you an “altruistic” driver who yields to others for the benefit of all? Are you an “early merger” (upstream of the point of confluence) or “late merger” (at the last possible moment)? Are you “left-brain” or “right-brain; ” Republican or Democrat; plastic or paper? In the end, there is no right or wrong, legally speaking. When and how one merges is more a study in human behavior, and less a study in efficiency.

Early Attempts to Direct Motorists How to Merge

When the Interstates were built in the 1960s and 70s there was often “instruction” by local engineers and the media of how to engage Interstate ramps, acceleration and deceleration lanes, etc. Of course, at that time, traffic was less congested on the whole, and the merging and diverging were essentially lessons in how to enter and exit Interstates. Academia has touched on queue theory, gap analysis, and related safety-oriented aspects, but none of these studies have focused much on educating motorists how to merge efficiently, unless one considers a “queue” or a “traffic stream” as an entity that can deduce instruction. Nevertheless, the academic community has essentially confirmed, via queuing theory and microsimulation that the discharge rate after the merge governs congestion on the segment. In layman’s terms, there is a finite capacity of the single lane downstream of the constriction. Very little of what happens upstream can refute the laws of physics; that only one vehicle can occupy the discharge space at a time; and in a jammed situation, the lead vehicle does so from essentially a crawl speed.

Excepting for some basic, generic instruction in states’ drivers manuals (“wait for a safe gap in traffic” – typ.) little has been done at the national level to educate drivers how to merge safely and efficiently, as compared to other national education efforts promoting seat belt compliance, school zone safety, traveler information, or pedestrian rights and practices. The perceived reason for this may simply be the expectation that there will always be drivers who feel they know best how and when to merge in a queue, irrespective of any instruction to the contrary. The altruistic view is to leave gaps, yield to your neighbor, take your turn but don’t force your turn, and generally don’t deny him or her entry into your lane. The more proactive view is to take first opportunity to cut in line, perhaps “line jump” to chase whichever line seems to be moving, and scuttle the principles of any orderly manner. Anecdotal evidence from many local traffic blogs and an Internet search finds strong sentiment from both camps as to why they think their method is best.

Merge Principles

How can we increase the efficiency of merging prior to the discharge point? In two words – be orderly. Not surprisingly, safety improves too. It is repeatedly shown that traffic is inherently safer when all vehicles are traveling at or near the same speed. Think of an orderly progression on a crowded escalator. Everyone is safely cocooned because they are going the same speed. Now imagine the bumping and chaos that would occur if impatient folks pushed past others.

Principle #1: “Go Slow to Go Fast” Sound familiar?

“Go slow to go fast” is an increasingly trendy expression in traffic circles. It speaks to the seemingly paradoxical idea that if we slow down the rate of our “mixing” we can get past a constriction faster. A well known example (actually the winning entry in a 2006 contest to demonstrate the meaning of “throughput maximization”) is the “rice” experiment. In the first case, dry rice is poured all at once into a funnel. In the second case, the same amount is poured slowly. Repeated trials generally conclude about a one-third time savings to empty the funnel via the second method. And, it should be noted, there is a tipping point reached as one graduates from a v-e-r-y slow pour, to a medium pace, and so on. What lesson does the rice experiment teach us about traffic? The densely packed rice (or traffic) in the first trial creates friction in the literal sense and the practical sense, respectively. The denser the traffic, the smaller the safety cushion around each driver, and the more cautious (i.e., slower) he becomes. A classic “bell curve” diagram also serves to explain how traffic throughput reaches an apex up to the point where traffic friction and conflict conspire to begin a decline in the rate of throughput and speed. There exist some examples of validation of this principle at intersections (e.g., traffic signalization, roundabouts, vehicle detection) that demonstrates that slowing or stopping some traffic benefits the aggregate flow, and is far better than the free-for-all converse. In the bottleneck and corridor genres, we have ramp metering and speed harmonization, respectively, providing examples on freeways.

Principle #2: Keep Sufficient Gaps

Keeping sufficient (or ideally, the largest possible) gaps leads to uniform and free(er) traffic flow. Gaps allow for small adjustments in braking, accelerating, and drifting. The larger the gap, the lesser the “ripple” affecting adjacent and following vehicles, which otherwise would react by slowing. Gap maintenance (and thus, lane reliability) is achieved on-purpose in high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes or high-occupancy toll (HOT) lanes; by selective admittance in the former, and by dynamically shifting the price every few minutes in the latter. The target benefit is to allow qualifying vehicles the guarantee of a free flow trip, versus the hit-or-miss prospect in the adjacent general purpose (GP) lanes. Both cases have the added (and intended) benefit of removing vehicles and or person-trips from the GP lanes too; so all traffic streams win when these practices are employed. Absent out-and-out violators who can muck up the system, agencies can tweak the lane mandates to keep the systems running at optimum levels. How does this apply to localized bottlenecks? Theoretically, the same “gapping” principles would hold true in backups; to wit, leaving progressively larger gaps would allow for progressively better progression. (Taken to the extreme, no “bottleneck” would even exist!) The point is that in congested situations the constant brake-tapping in bumper-to-bumper traffic works to self-perpetuate the problem. No one can get much momentum before he or she has to react to the vehicle directly ahead or adjacent. The ripple effects are short, abrupt, and inefficient. The obvious problem with this is that human nature simply won’t allow for the patience and orderliness to make this work. The second that I create a sufficient gap between me and the car ahead, some “profiteering” lane jumper will fill it. Which is a nice segue into the next principle; zippering.

Principle #3: Zippering

Unlike principle #2, which is noted to be fairly impractical to expect, this one could easily be melded into our regular practice; namely, to take turns, or “zipper” merge at the front of the line. The fairness – and simple visualization – of this principle speaks for itself. And there is already precedence that we have been schooled in this; witness the “Yield” condition and many recurring locations where this is the unwritten rule; newcomers quickly adapt! Advocates of zipper merging are proponents of “late” merges; i.e., staying in your lane until the last possible moment and taking turns to get through the chokepoint nozzle. One enterprising fellow in California has gone so far as to adorn his car with a zipper graphic and messages promoting this method.

Is Murphy Right? Does the Other Lane “Always Move Faster”?

How many times have you observed (or seemed to observe) that “the other lane is moving faster” only to get into that lane and then watch the first lane move past you? Actually, you are at the whim of “observation selection bias” which essentially opines that one will selectively conclude a result only on the basis of a distortion of data; in this case, your distorted sampling of only the cars that are moving, and less so the ones that aren’t. So, does cutting in line help you?

Imagine two lanes of cars. The left lane (L) is the continuous lane and the right lane (R) is dropping. You are 6th in line in R lane. If everyone stays put and “zippers” then the zipper order is L, R, L, R, etc. Your neighbor to your left is 11th and you will be 12th to merge. If, however, you “early merge” and cut in front of him into the L line, then you will now be 11th to merge, the person behind you (formerly 14th) moves up to 12th, and you neighbor drops to 13th. You win. Your neighbor loses. But the guy behind you benefits most.

Now consider the same scenario except the zipper order is R, L, R, L, etc. In the orderly scenario you would be 11th and your neighbor is 12th. If you cut in front of him, the guy behind you moves up to 11, you are now 12th, and your neighbor is now 14th. You neighbor really loses (drops two slots) and the guy behind you (formerly 13) really wins; he gains two spots – again.

Congratulations! In both scenarios you have definitely improved the slot for the guy behind you! You may or may not have improved your slot. And in either case, you made your neighbor mad! And in the end, all the jockeying you have done may have been canceled by someone ahead of you. So maybe it’s better to leave Murphy’s Law to “anything that can go wrong, will” and let zippering be the fair and simple solution to traffic backups.