Machiavelli as traffic engineer

The ring of truth sounds something like this:

I heard a depressing reason for all the empty shops downtown: the “bypass” of Route 70 draws too much traffic away and people don’t stop any more. The bypass was supposed to funnel off the big trucks so (a) they didn’t cause more congestion and localized pollution and (b) so they didn’t have problems with some of the narrow streets/tight turns in the downtown area. But apparently most people don’t “destination shop” any more? Pretty much the only reason I ever went downtown was for shopping … I tended to avoid those few blocks otherwise BECAUSE of the congestion.

Traffic engineers, it’s always seemed to me, were obsessed with speed through a given area, at the expense of, well, everything else.

But then there’s this:

I’ve also heard that the reason the lights on main street aren’t synchronized — you can count on catching AT LEAST half of them on red any given trip — is that businesses have begged the city NOT to synchronize them, so people are slowed down and more likely to stop. Which feels to me a lot like Walmart’s strategy of “let’s randomly move stuff around because when people can’t find what they want, they spend more time in the store and will buy more” which just reminds me how I’m weird, because that kind of thing annoys me and I actually buy LESS than I would otherwise … I have left without completing my shopping list before because I got so tired of hunting for stuff.

My response to not being able to find what I want generally involves a Web browser.

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