The economy is improving, and I can prove it!

Shawn - Plano, Texas
Entered on February 27, 2009

I believe the economy is starting to turn around. Let me first go on record as saying I’m not an economist, a financial analyst, or an investment banker, and although I am an MBA I am not a financial expert. But what I am good at is recognizing trends and patterns. What am I basing my analysis on? My commute to work.

Let me explain. Here in Texas you can tell a lot about the people you drive next to everyday. For example, It’s fairly easy to tell how far to the right or left someone leans by the number of political bumper stickers on their car. For example, someone with 3 or more Obama stickers would be someone who is pretty left leaning. The same goes on the right for those with 3 or more stickers calling Clinton a communist, adverts for Hannity or whomever else is their preferred talking head in the right wing media. The number of bumper stickers also says how far to either side they lean. I’ve counted as many as 16 right wing stickers on one car at once, but for some reason I’ve only seen as much as 7 Obama stickers at one time. You can tell if someone is a republican whose given up by the faded or half torn W sticker in their window. I’m politically in the middle, so I have no stickers. Same goes with religion and their level of commitment, with the more fervent the faith the more stickers appear. And not just Christian either, you can see Catholic, Hindu, Islam, Buddhism, Wiccan, almost every faith in Dallas traffic. Supporters of the gay community have those equal signs in the window. I’ve seen joke bumper stickers advertising “Iparklikeanidiot.com”, stickers for every radio station in three states, even recently a sticker that said “If you’re going to ride my bumper, at least pull my hair”. And since I know you’re curious, she looked like a college student.

You know how I see all these stickers? My commute to work is 1 hour each way to work and back, every day. One hour. That’s a lot of traffic to navigate, and a lot of time to analyze the other people driving next to me. Its not a long drive, only about 20 miles, but the traffic makes it what it is. But all that changed in December, when I started to get to work earlier, not much just 5 or 10 minutes early each day. I attributed it to people going on vacation. In first week of January that stretched to 15, something I attributed to new years partying. Then suddenly in mid January, it was 30 minutes sooner! 30 whole minutes! There was no serious traffic on the roads at all. Residential streets and highways were easier to navigate. Then I put the economic crisis together with this new speedy commute, and seeing this commute time remain so short, only drastically fewer commuters could cause such a decrease in travel time. That scared me. I didn’t even see a drop like that during the $4 a gallon gas crisis. This happened both ways, with an equal drop in the time it took me to get home. Where before I would leave work at 5:30 and get home at 6:30, now I was getting home before 6:00 sometimes! It remained like this for a full month, to the point I was even able to sleep later each day. I wasn’t sure if I should be happy or sad at that. This is where my theory comes from, and if you really think about it, there’s a definite logic to it. Fewer workers means less traffic. I’m guessing this can be backed up by looking at rush hour accident statistics as well. Someone at NPR should look into that.

Now I did say I believe this is turning around finally. What’s my indicator? Well traffic again of course. In mid February, the traffic suddenly started to pick up again, and pickup dramatically. Within a weeks time, it went back up to 45 minutes, now its back to an hour. The trip home has picked up as well. Now I’m getting home about 6:30 every day. Just two days ago I didn’t get home until 6:45. I’ll admit, this made me a little happy to see. More drivers on the road, more workers, more commuters, longer commutes. Sure looks like a recovery to me.

Now of only all these idiots would get out of my way . . . . .