Thursday, January 21, 2016

Theory: Why Washington DC Comes to a Halt in the Snow

With a major storm approaching, I was thinking about the allegation by many people from Northern states that "DC comes to a grinding halt when there is only 1 inch of snow."

While it's not quite that bad, things definitely don't move as smoothly here as they do, say, in Minneapolis, Albany, or Buffalo during the Winter.

I have a theory why.

Blame the Foreigners.

Ok, that's a bit hyperbolic, but it's a combination of demographics and network theory.

Think about cities like Minneapolis, Buffalo, or Albany...what percentage of the population living there this year ALSO lived there last year?

I don't know, but it's probably pretty high.

Now, compare that percentage to a city like DC which has:

  • elected official turnover every 2 years, bringing in many new staffers
  • a large military presence (Pentagon, etc.) where transfers go in/out
  • a large international presence (World Bank, diplomats, etc.)
Now, factor in the high probability that many of these people come from places where they have little to NO snow at all. 

So, when people from Africa or most of Asia, or parts of Latin America or, even San Diego, come to DC and must drive in the snow, what do they do?

They naturally go VERY, VERY slowly. Extra cautious...which makes sense.

Now for the network theory portion of it.

Have you ever been on a highway and one person brakes sharply or turns to look at an accident?

It creates a domino effect that can backup/slow down traffic for miles.

Now, imagine you have all of these people from non-snow intensive areas on main roads. And they are going extra slowly because it's either new or somewhat new to them.

The ripple effect can be massive...

And that's one possible reason why DC during a snowstorm is particularly bad.

Now, 24 inch storms like the one we're supposed to get this weekend are a different thing entirely...

Stay warm!
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