On your marks …

When PennDot announced last week that the electronic message boards above the parkways that say things like “Consol Center, use Blvd. of Allies exit” or “Congestion, next FIVE HUNDRED MILES, YOU SUCKER. WHERE’S YOUR GOD NOW?” would now be telling us our estimated travel time to reach various destinations dependent upon traffic conditions, my first thought was, “Ugh.”


Because when those signs were first installed back in the pioneer days my pa and I were stuck in extra special traffic only to find the reason for it wasn’t an accident or rubberneckers, but rather a whole mess of cars slowing down to read the newfangled signs.

We would also notice that when the sign was broken and spitting out heiroglyphics, drivers would slow down and then immediately speed up once they passed the sign — maybe trying to decipher if Jesus was leaving them a personal message about the rapture or building a baseball field.

As a collective lot, Burghers are brakers. There is no way around this. Burghers brake for birds and geese and tunnels and three drops of precipitation and accidents on the other side of the highway.  We brake for rainbows.  Hell, I’ve seen traffic jams created just because a tow truck was parked on the side of the road not doing anything but sitting there all by its lonesome.

BRAKE! Look! A tow truck. Let’s slow down in case a dozen children jump out of the truck and run into the road. It could happen.

So when I read about the forthcoming “time to destination” messages, I figured it would just make Burghers slow down to read and do math.

Oooooooh. 75 minutes to downtown from Monroeville. Carry the 1. That makes me 23 minutes late for work. There’s a good chance I’ll need my Pistol of Traffic Justice by the time I hit Edgewood.

I don’t drive downtown during morning rush anymore, so I don’t know yet if people are slowing down to read, thus creating worse traffic, but when I finally encountered the signs on my way downtown for a lunchtime meeting and I passed under one near Edgewood that said, “Time to Downtown: 8 minutes,” I said, “Challenge. Accepted.”

Six minutes, baby.

It’s my new game.

Thanks, PennDot!


  1. Miles
    May 19, 2011 3:10 pm

    I work in Philly and we are experiencing the same phenomena (sp?) as you Burghers as it relates to the DOT providing us with mileage and times. The only difference I have noticed between your experience and mine that there is no slowing down to read the sign. It seems we collectively, like you, have accepted the challenge.


  2. Jess
    May 19, 2011 3:15 pm

    I noticed it once driving outbound on the Parkway East, maybe two weeks ago. The sign said it would take me 7 minutes to get from Grant St. to the Homestead Exit, during the tail end of evening rush hour. I said HA! I won.

  3. Becky
    May 19, 2011 3:21 pm

    I LOVE THIS GAME. We get to play it frequently as we live near Chicago. Word to the wise…it is also helpful when the time is super long…we use it to determine when to call in the pizza delivery order ;)

  4. Crazy Hat Bitch
    May 19, 2011 3:22 pm

    I have Jury Duty the end of the month & am dreading the commute as I used to drive from Plum to the North Shore daily for 5 years. Considering leaving my house at 5am to avoid the morning rush.

  5. Michele
    May 19, 2011 3:29 pm

    I hate that they switched to the estimated time instead of the miles. I travel from Penn Hills to Moon Twp. each day and had finally gotten familiar with where traffic would be stopped on the parkway east outbound depending on the mileage stated on the sign just past the Grant St. exit.

  6. Moxie Bestos
    May 19, 2011 3:54 pm

    My experience has been that the signs are self fulfilling prophecies. When they say “congestions next 2 miles” it’s not because of an accident. It’s because drivers are creating congestion at the suggestion of the signs. I wish everyone would go back to reading their smart phones instead.

  7. Paul
    May 19, 2011 4:24 pm

    Meh. I already use the “Estimated arrival time” on my GPS as a challenge, rather than anything informational.

  8. dand
    May 19, 2011 5:02 pm

    They really need to toll the parkways.

  9. Butcher's Dog
    May 19, 2011 5:54 pm

    We already do this, give distance by time to travel. PennDot’s just catching up.

  10. AngryMongo
    May 19, 2011 10:17 pm

    The signs are not exceptionally accurate, in my experience. If I get to Churchill by 6:30, I know I will make it to Robinson by 7:02, barring any huge traffic snafus.

    When it says, ‘Estimated time to Sq. Hill tunnel, 10 min.’ It’s been anywhere from 15-20 minutes.

    They even had one at Penn Hills for travel back to I-76 that was damn near 1.21 giggawatting boot scoot and boogittying in order to make there.

  11. bucdaddy
    May 20, 2011 1:16 am

    Paul @ 7:

    I like how if you go fast enough, you can change your Garmin arrival time from, say, 6:57 to 6:55. It’s like you’re going backward in time.

    Let’s do the time warp again.

  12. AngryMongo
    May 20, 2011 7:13 am

    They were down this morning… and I made to work in less than an hour. Might be on to something here.

  13. Butcher's Dog
    May 20, 2011 7:26 am

    @bucdaddy: Terrific Rocky Horror reference! You got that AND Python’s Holy Grail down! You’d never have to pay for a beer as long as I was around with a memory bank like that.

    Sadly for you, I’m not around much.

  14. Julie
    May 20, 2011 9:29 am

    Those signs are complete nonsense. I can count on one hand how many times they have been accurate, when they aren’t spewing messages from Jeebus.

  15. w0x0f
    May 20, 2011 9:44 am

    I once heard a local comedian say, “Pittsburgh stands for People In The Tunnels Slow Before U Really Get Hurt.”

  16. Paul
    May 20, 2011 9:57 am

    bucdaddy – I’m totally with you on that.

    What I hate is that you really have to speed to get the arrival time to go down a minute or two. However, if you stop for just a few minutes (potty break for the kids or something) the arrival time gets blown out of the water. Such is time, I guess.

    Stupid physics.

  17. AngryMongo
    May 20, 2011 9:59 am

    A good friend of mine pointed out that tomorrow would be an awesome time to hack them.


  18. PittinDC
    May 20, 2011 1:16 pm

    First, excellent HIMYM reference. Second, they do that in MD on 95 – they give you both the miles left and the time it will take you. EVERYONE down here slows down to read it. But, in my experiences, the drivers of the DMV are not the best in the world. I also like to try to beat it :) It’s also nice when you see – 18 miles, 74 minutes, you know that you need to find an alternative route.

  19. bucdaddy
    May 20, 2011 1:48 pm

    I dunno. It works at Kennywood.

    “90 minutes from here to ride the Steel Phantom”

    Well, then, I’ll just go ride the Thunderbolt instead.

    So maybe drivers headed downtown could just ride the Thunderbolt instead of the Parkway. And wouldn’t a 10-mile-long Thunderbolt be a frickin’ AWEsome way to get downtown?

    Which reminds me … Bucdaughter lives in Connecticut now and seldom gets home. We used to go to Kennywood every summer and ride coasters all day, and now I don’t have anyone insane to go with.

    So who’s up for That’s Church Day at Kennywood? Come on, you know you want to.

  20. Jen
    May 20, 2011 3:02 pm

    Holla on the Barney reference ;)

  21. Bill
    May 20, 2011 3:18 pm

    My favorite move by burghers is when they slow down (or even pull over) for an abulance when: (1) the ambulance is going the other direction, and (2) there is a jersey barrier between the lanes.

    To our friends from OH: I don’t know how you are taught to drive, but if you are not passing anyone, get the hell out of the left lane!

  22. Sam's Dog
    May 20, 2011 5:08 pm

    @ Bill- AMEN! although by the almost total participation by anyone with Ohio plates in this hair-pulling stunt, it may actually be their birthright to occupy the left lane.

  23. Lisa
    May 20, 2011 6:10 pm

    Why yes, as a matter of fact, the left lane does belong to us Ohioans! That’s why we like to drive in PA – yinz stay in the right lane and out of our way :-D

  24. jennviolet
    May 20, 2011 7:03 pm

    You mean it’s different in other places?????

  25. Sam's Dog
    May 20, 2011 9:15 pm

    Lisa, if you are from Ohio it’s in completely bad form for you to use the phrase “yinz”. That’s ours.

  26. bucdaddy
    May 21, 2011 12:22 am


  27. AngryMongo
    May 21, 2011 9:20 am

    The Parkway East is not a left lane, right lane kind of road. If you want to pass someone, that’s what the exit lanes and burms are for.