Dig Baton Rouge

Gameday Traffic: Method or Madness?

By Nick BeJeaux 

Imagine rush hour in Baton Rouge. Now imagine it crammed into the labyrinth of tiny one-ways snaking through and around LSU’s campus; after a long day of tailgating that’s probably the last place you want to be.

Be it naivete or persistence, we convinced ourselves at DIG that surely some secret to beating the madness of traffic exists. Our search lead us to Dr. Brian Wolshon, an Associate Professor with the Department of Civil Engineering at LSU and probably the only person alive that gets excited about the city’s traffic. According to Wolshon, there is a method to the madness in BR traffic jams, but most people, even himself, really don’t care about that when they’re behind the wheel.

“Driving is actually a very selfish thing,” he said. “Everyone gets into their cars and wants to get where they’re going as quickly as possible. It doesn’t occur to anyone that everyone else is doing the exact same thing. It’s funny because the people who hate traffic don’t realize that they’re part of the problem”

As anybody who tailgates will tell you, getting on to campus to stake your claim or find your friends and family is easy. It’s getting off campus after the game that’s hard. Theoretically, the simplest solution would be to just wait around until the crowd thins out; but that doesn’t do much good when fans have stick around until 3 a.m. But simply being smart about where you park in the first place will go a long way in getting you out quickly after the game. LSUsports.net has a parking map that not only shows where you can park, but also how campus police will direct traffic out of campus after the game.

According to Wolshon, studying this map is your best bet of avoiding an all-night drive back home. Study carefully, because parking in the wrong spot can actually lengthen your driving time. Also, patience is a virtue.

“I remember I once drove 72 miles, or something like that, to get to my house three miles from the stadium after a game,” he said. “Everyone thinks they know traffic, but the police actually do a good job diverting the flow to major roads, and they know the campus pretty well. But keep in mind that when they made this traffic plan it was set up for the greater good, but it’s terribly inconvenient for the individual.”

But for those that refuse to deal with LSU gameday traffic at all, there is another option: the Capital Area Transit System’s Touchdown Express. CATS buses make trips to five stops around BR starting three hours before the game and offer trips back up to one hour after the game. Park and ride options from downtown and L’Auberge Casino offer patrons the chance to diversify their gameday experience at off-campus hot spots. For more information, visit www.brcats.com/touchdownexpress.

Wolshon refuted the idea that BR traffic – which is still hectic without thousands of Tiger fans gumming up the works – is worse than other cities like New Orleans, Dallas or even New York. Everywhere you go, the problem is essentially the same; it’s just a matter of scale. Baton Rouge road rage – that’s a different story.

“It’s pretty bad all over the place because of the same problem: there’s too much demand and not enough service,” he said.

So it’s a matter of simple economics – increase the amount of service (more lanes on the interstate, widen inter-city streets, build additional infrastructure, etc.) and traffic jams in BR will cease to exist. Unfortunately the solution isn’t that simple. Civil engineers like Dr. Wolshon do their best to anticipate big problems with traffic flow, but when you have to balance safety, reasonable traffic time, and money you’re not going to please everyone.

But, as Wolshon points out, bad traffic is never a constant problem. For example, when you’re driving down I-12 at 10 a.m. on a Tuesday in July, you practically have the road to yourself. At 4:45 p.m. on a Monday, you’re surrounded by literally thousands of people.

“We only build the roads we need,” he said. “Think about it this way: there are 80,760 hours in a year and about 200 or 300 of those are rush hours. I guess when you factor in school being out, vacations and big events those numbers can vary, but essentially our roads and highways are over-designed 97 percent of the time.”


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