A modest proposal: Solving the problem of traffic in Seattle caused by sporting events

Date:July 9, 2007 / year-entry #247
Orig Link:https://blogs.msdn.microsoft.com/oldnewthing/20070709-01/?p=26093
Comments:    52
Summary:Whenever there is a sporting event in Seattle, traffic is reduced to gridlock for hours both before and after the event. This affects not only the people attending the sporting event in question, but also people who get caught up in the traffic as a side-effect. To resolve this issue, I present this modest proposal....

Whenever there is a sporting event in Seattle, traffic is reduced to gridlock for hours both before and after the event. This affects not only the people attending the sporting event in question, but also people who get caught up in the traffic as a side-effect.

To resolve this issue, I present this modest proposal.

In Berlin, a large museum complex can be found on Museum Island. Similarly, in Munich, Museum Island is the home of the Deutsches Museum.† I remember a conversation with a visitor from Germany to Seattle. She asked for suggestions on what to see, and in response to a museum, she asked, "Is it on an island?"

Although we don't have the tradition of putting museums on islands here in the United States, we can start a new tradition: Sports Arena Island. Something to think about since the owners of the Seattle Supersonics are looking for a new arena.

All sporting arenas must be built on an island. The beauty of this solution is not so much in the island-ness, but in how the island is connected to the mainland. (This means that we can have "virtual Sports Arena Islands" in parts of the country where an actual island is impractical.) You see, there will be a hundred lanes of traffic leading into Sports Arena Island, but only one lane of traffic leaving it.

When there is a sporting event, everybody can get onto the island quickly since there is so much incoming capacity. This means that traffic will not back up onto local streets and highways. And when the event is over, cars can leave the island only one at a time since there is only one exit lane. This prevents the sudden surge of traffic from the game from overwhelming local roads. (The inconvenience of leaving the park would also encourage people to use mass transportation to get to the game.)

Once we've gotten everybody accustomed to the idea of Sports Arena Island, we can take it to the next level: Floating Sports Arena Island. Here in Seattle, we float everything. Houses, bridges, more bridges (not to be confused with its parallel bridge), and still more bridges. The floating island would travel around the perimeter of Lake Washington like a ferry and make stops according to a fixed schedule. If you wanted to get to the Mariners game, you could get on at Bellevue at 5:30pm, Mercer Island at 6:00pm, or Madrona at 6:30pm. (The island couldn't go further north or south due to time constraints and because there are those bridges in the way, but we could have ferries pick up people from other locations and take them to the island.) This would spread out the event traffic around the entire lake instead of focusing it on one place. Similarly, when the event is over, traffic could be trickled out to the surrounding communities.

There you have it. Now you can have your football game without seriously disturbing the traffic of the surrounding area. And then we can have the same "oops" that we've had before and sink the structure into the lake.

Next time (if there is a next time), I'll solve the problem of identity theft.


†It feels weird for me to write of the Deutsches Museum since it violates the rules for German adjective endings. Since it's the object of the preposition "of" (which is a dative preposition in German), perhaps I should say the Deutschen Museum. But this sounds weird to me because my instinct for adjective endings comes not from the analysis of strong and weak forms but rather on whether the case and gender have already been determined by the article, and since "the" is not declined in English, the answer is no. My instinct therefore tells me it should be of the Deutschem Museum, but that sounds insane the moment I say it. Besides, in German, I would have used the genitive case anyway (des Deutschen Museums). Of course, this is all nonsense since I'm just using a foreign phrase in English, in which case English rules apply. That doesn't mean it still doesn't feel weird.

Comments (52)
  1. It does seem somewhat apt to watch a Mariners game in a floating venue.

  2. Jason says:

    Don’t quit your day job.  While I assume the above was meant to be humorous, the reality is that both traffic and city design are infinitely more complex than the average person realizes.  It’s similar to how those who have never programmed get upset that we don’t have self driving cars.  After all, how difficult could it be, you just tell the computer in the car to follow the road and not run into anything.

    The devil is in the details and techies seem especially prone to not realizing that they’re not experts at everything.  

    Remember, "For every problem there is one solution which is simple, neat, and wrong".

  3. Bahbar says:


    While I assume the above was meant to be humorous

    Wow, you are astute! Did you check the first link (modest proposal)?


  4. Chris says:

    You’ve got it semi-backwards. You need to follow Indianapolis. Indy does it totally correct IMHO. During the 3 races they have during the year they get 100,000+ at each event (closer to 250k for the NASCAR race). What they do is shut down the roads around the track, make them all 1 way in. Once the event starts, they reverse it and they’re all 1 way out. They block off local streets, freeway exits, etc.

    Montreal has their race track on an island and it’s terrible to get to. There is NO public parking on it so you are forced to take the subway. It literally takes hours to get off the island.

    I think your example makes some sense, but the multiple lanes in at the start should be turned into multiple lanes out at the end. These should exit directly to a freeway and there shouldn’t be any exits for a couple miles. Make it easy to get people in and out, don’t make them trickle out, that’s ridiculous.

    For a muesum it’s one thing, you don’t have 30,000+ people leaving at once, so who cares? What you want to do is make it easy for people. Mass transit can fit into this, but it could be to parking ramps that are in the area, but again, there needs to be a lot of transit going out at the end.

  5. john ludwig says:

    alternatively we could let the sports teams relocate to, say, oklahoma city.  let them have the traffic problem!

  6. James Schend says:

    Is it against the rules to call Jason a jackass?

    If you realize it’s a joke, then either say "haha" or nothing at all. Christ.

  7. Scott says:

    No, what we need is "Softie Island". Put Microsofts campus on an island along with barracks for the employees so they can stop clogging up 520 in the mornings and afternoons as the commute to Seattle. Plus, it would free up Lake Sammamish pkwy.

    Next up, Boeing Island. They already have a field.

  8. Mark says:

    Chris – that’s fine for Indy, to block off the roads three times a year. But between the Mariners, Seahawks, and Sonics, there are 130 regular-season games in Seattle… and that’s ignoring concerts, the Storm, the Sounders, the Thunderbirds, etc.

    The real problem is when the game traffic hits rush hour traffic – at least with a "Sports Arena" Island, there’s no rush hour added on.

  9. pcooper says:

    I’m looking forward to your solution for identity theft.

  10. George Jansen says:

    Two allusions to Jonathan Swift in one article, not bad.

    A high school classmate attempted to implement a primitive version of your traffic solution one Friday night, by adding his own padlock to the chain securing the main entrance. He was caught, and received a multi-day suspension; innovators are not always appreciated.

    As for using foreign languages in English, such scruples never bother the hoi polloi.

  11. C says:

    We already have a system that is effectively the same as this, but for a music venue. The White river amphitheatre (http://www.livenation.com/venue/getVenue/venueId/1224) has one lane in AND out. Since arrivals are staggered, it’s not a big problem to get there. But leaving is another matter entirely. I waited four hours to even MOVE my car after the only show I attended there. I’ve promised myself never to return.

  12. Sebastian Redl says:

    Your forgot another variation. (Well, it’s something I, as a native German speaker, would also think of.) When naming the museum in separation, we would say "Das Deutsche Museum". "Deutsches Museum" comes from omitting the article. However, the article in your sentence is not omitted. Thus, ignoring declination rules, another plausible variant of the sentence is "Similarly, in Munich, Museum Island is the home of the Deutsche Museum."

    Sounds weird, too.

  13. Mr Cranky says:

    Cincinnati has an easy-to-implement solution that works fairly well:  have teams that suck, so that few people will want to go to the games.  

    Actually, one thing that would be nice to try is to stop using stolen money (taxes) to pay for urban sports arenas.  They’re all a hideous waste of valuable real estate.  Let the teams buy their own land for stadiums and parking lots, and I’d bet they’ll get out in the boondocks where less traffic and lower expenses would make everyone’s life a little happier.

  14. Brian says:

    I strongly believe "Deutsches Museum" is proper use of German language – even though "das Deutsche Museum" can only be found in Munich, Bavaria, where you hardly ever meet any person speaking "proper" German. In any case it is better than "Deutschen Museum".

  15. Miles Archer says:

    There was the idea to build a floating stadium in Oakland. That way when the Raiders wanted to leave, they could just float the stadium down the coast.

  16. Cooney says:

    The floating island would travel around the perimeter of Lake Washington like a ferry and make stops according to a fixed schedule.

    Yeah, but then you have drunken boaters ramming the stadium.

  17. Michael Puff says:

    Concerning your footnote:

    If you use the name without any article it is "Deutsches Museum". If you use the name with an article it is "das Deutsche Museum". Or (I don’t know if it is the genitive or dative) "wegen des Deutschen Museums".

    To be honest, sometimes I’m surprised myself to get this things right. And I look up to foreign people who are able to deal with this grammaticle stuff and get it right.

  18. Your Editor says:

    “†It feels weird for me to write of the Deutsches Museum since it violates the rules for German adjective endings.”

    It feels weird for me to read † (U+2020 DAGGER) as the first and only footnote since it violates the rules of English typography.



    “The dagger is used to indicate a footnote, in the same way an asterisk is. However, the dagger is only used as a second footnote when an asterisk is already used.”

    [There are a lot of violations of English typography on LiveJournal. You might want to let them know. -Raymond]
  19. Merus says:

    Prepositions at the end of a sentence is the sort of English up with which I will not put.†

    The footnote was an aside on how ‘the rules of grammar’ can sometimes be inappropriate. This is the same reason why a dagger’s used for footnotes instead of an asterisk. This has been explained, and if one insists on harping on about it, one can please go elsewhere.

    †Winston Churchill, paraphrased.

  20. Dean Harding says:

    I think "Your Editor" must be joking. Either that, or he/she has never read this blog before. That he/she commented on the use of dagger in the first post that used it after all those other wacky footnote markers indicates that they just weren’t paying attention…

    Personally, I prefer the dagger over an asterisk anyway. The asterisk is too "dark" for normal text so it’s very visible. A dagger isn’t so dark and so doesn’t distract you from the main text.

  21. Merus Senior says:

    yaH: hoO cArZ aBut speLiN’ graMmeR & tYpaGRfy in blOgs; faLoWin KomMon rulZ mey heLp eMProv koMpraHenSion# butt zatT doNna maTtR aZ loN az wi kanNa unda sTand yU%

    i woNda if dis koMeNt is dIfikuLt 4 some ppl 2 read. 2 bad* tis a bLog So thRo aLDa rulzs a wAy> yuz wane’ve fEEt markS yu liKe=

  22. steveg says:

    Another idea†, although far more costly, would be to construct Sports Arena Cavern beneath Seattle. To get there multiple entrances would be built across a wide area (I guess lifts (AKA elevators) and escalators (AKA stairs for lard-arses). The opening/half-time time BASE show is always spectacular.

    Another another idea, would be to do what they did in Bangkok and simply build multiple layers of elevated highways/tollways — The 16 lane Sports Arena Freeway Express Route System would cost ($150 – (pax * $30)) per use AND, as a bonus, it is a really annoying acronym.

    † Who gives a hoot about footnote usage on a *blog*? If you do, how can you manage to use the web without giving yourself a stress-induced heart attack?

  23. Stefan Kuhr says:


    if I had to phrase the sentence with "of the Deutsches Museum" I would simply leave out the article:

    "Similarly, in Munich, Museum Island is the home of Deutsches Museum".

    At least this doesn’t nearly sound as strange to me as the other variations.

  24. Merus says:

    "Merus Senior"


    "faLoWin KomMon rulZ mey heLp eMProv koMpraHenSion# butt zatT doNna maTtR aZ loN az wi kanNa unda sTand yU%"

    The commonly accepted use of asterisks is ‘insert any bunch of characters you like here’. Do you think that two conflicting rules will help comprehension, when everyone knows what a dagger is and that it means footnote?

    But, hey, nice to see you read my comment enough to come up with a smartalec name, but not enough to actually comprehend my point (oh the irony): that following commonly accepted rules sometimes make things worse. Perhaps you should call yourself Clever Dan next time, or perhaps instead you should concentrate on the actual topic.

    What is it with museums on islands, anyway?

  25. Cooney says:

    Another idea†, although far more costly, would be to construct Sports Arena Cavern beneath Seattle.

    I wonder what would happen during the next earthquake. Also, our big problem is that we have two bridges and an interstate that narrows to 1 lane in downtown to hold all of our traffic. Doesn’t really matter where you put the stadiums (in seattle) – you still need to get people in and out.

  26. Steve Porter says:


    I must agree with "Merus Senior". While his/her writing was a little difficult to parse at first glance, the points are valid. Using commonly accepted spelling, grammar, and typography really does improve readability and comprehension.

    A dagger is not merely a footnote. As others have commented many times in the last few months, it is only a second footnote after an asterisk. That is what I learned in elementary school a long time ago, and it still seems to true.

    I have been reading this blog for several years now, and it was only recently that I began to have some difficulty understanding some of the non-standard writing styles. Many of the comments did help me parse the rather odd footnote styles.

    Honestly I must say that the non-standard footnote style is distracting to the point that it almost eclipses the main topic. It also seems to generate a great many comments.

    Compilers complain when I break the rules. English, too, has rules.

  27. Daniel says:

    heh. The concept sounds amusing. (Given it’s an island, can we throw in a joke about tidal traffic lanes?)

    But ultimately the best way to get big crowds to venues like that is to get them out of their cars. The biggest venues in many cities are built next to mass transit facilities. A single train can easily move 1000 people, and if the lines are built along routes people can use (eg that take them close to their homes), then you can easily shift a big crowd without them clogging up traffic.

  28. Steve Porter says:

    Dean Harding,

    Actually, I do think that it is a little difficult to comprehend. Every time I see the dagger I immediately search for the first asterisk thinking that I must have missed it, when in fact I have not.

    It is not impossible to comprehend, but it is distracting. I have remained silent on the issue for the last few months, but decided to finally state my opinion. And looking back at the many other comments about it, I am surely not alone.

    I can not speak for the other commenters, but I do not view it as trying to "look smart". It is merely a standard writing convention. When I get something wrong (which is more often than I want), I try to positively accept corrections / criticism and learn from it.

  29. Steve Porter says:

    Dean Harding,


    Because it should be there. And when it is not, I search for it and the reason why it is missing. It is so distracting that it almost eclipses the main topic.


    There is nothing wrong with overloaded usage. In the right context, I can easily parse the intended meaning. However, a single dagger used as a footnote with no prior asterisk is simply wrong.


    I have been reading this blog since 2003. As far as I can recall, this footnote problem has only become an issue in the last few months.

    Yes, Raymond does get a lot of nitpickers. But no more or less than I see elsewhere. As I wrote earlier, I had refrained from commenting about the issue until now. However, the comments keep coming and the non-standard footnote notation continues. Apparently a sufficient number of people take issue to it. Even those who seem to be OK with it feel the need to comment about it.

  30. Merus says:

    "There is nothing wrong with overloaded usage. In the right context, I can easily parse the intended meaning. However, a single dagger used as a footnote with no prior asterisk is simply wrong."

    So then why is it so difficult to overload the dagger to mean ‘first footnote’? Because it’s wrong? So were prepositions at the end of sentences.

  31. Igor says:

    On second thought… how about making an island out of trash, putting all those dagger nitpickers on it and floating them into the deep sea?!?

  32. Igor says:

    You nits are all missreading the quote from Whackypedia:


    "However, the dagger is only used as a second footnote when an asterisk is already used."

    You are missing the "IS ONLY USED" part of the above sentence.

    Let me rephrase and simplify it for you:

    "When an asterisk is already used as a first footnote symbol, dagger is then used as a second footnote symbol."


    "When an asterisk is not used, dagger can also be used as a first footnote symbol."

    Alternatively, you can reprogram your picky brains to follow this algorithm:


    char g_FootnoteSymbols[2] = { ‘*’, ‘†’ };

    char g_FirstFootnoteSymbolPtr = g_FootnoteSymbols;

    if (strstr(g_URL, "http://blogs.msdn.com/oldnewthing/&quot;)) {




  33. Steve Porter says:


    I did not write or even quote the Wikipedia article. Someone else did.

    While that may be one twisted interpretation of the Wikipedia article, I suggest that you look it up in better resources. As a footnote marker, the dagger is only used after a first asterisk. In the absence of a first asterisk, the dagger may not be used as a footnote marker.

    [Depends on whose style rules you follow. Some journals reserve the asterisk for author identification. The sources I can find specify that the asterisk comes first in the “conventional order”. I.e., it’s not a rule; it’s a convention. It so happens that the asterisk has special meaning in computer programming, which is why I avoid it as a footnote marker. Apparently some people can’t handle this radical argument. I feel sorry for you. Living such a rigid life must be so boring. -Raymond]
  34. Steve Porter says:


    All orthographic practices are ultimately conventions. However, there are commonly accepted conventions. This is one of those. Ignoring these basic conventions generally amounts to what Merus Senior wrote. Is that what you are trying to advocate?

    The asterisk does indeed have a special meaning in C-like languages. As do a great many other symbols: # ; , . & % ‘ " ! >> << and others. By that argument, do you suggest avoiding, as just one example, the period? I doubt it, but of course that is up to you.

  35. Dean Harding says:

    How on earth is it hard to comprehend that a dagger is a footnote marker *despite the fact that it’s the first one, and not the second*? Is it really that hard to understand? An asterisk is such an overloaded symbol, Raymond figures that a dagger would be better. What’s the f**king† problem?

    Steve Porter: All the other footnote markers were used simply because so many people complained about the use of a dagger, and Raymond wanted to really stir them up. Some people just can’t seem to get over it, though.

    I just don’t understand some people. Do you think it makes you look smart when you notice that the dagger is not "supposed" to be used as the first footnote marker? I wonder how many times that Wikipedia article has been quoted on this blog. It’s got to be at least six times already…

    I gave "Your Editor" the benefit of the doubt in assuming it was meant as a joke (though not particularly funny), but given that people are still here complaining about it, I’m not so sure anymore…

    † Those weren’t footnote markers.

  36. Dean Harding says:

    Steve: OK, this is the last I’m going to say about this topic because it’s getting rediculous.

    1. Footnotes on Raymond’s blog were only a work-around for the fact that Raymond gets a lot of nitpickers anyway and it was a way for him to preempt them. The fact that people then nitpick the footnote markers is somewhat ironic, I suppose.

    2. Why would you search for the first footnote marker when you can just look down and see that the dagger is the first one? If you’re that compulsive about missing a footnotes, surely you’d have already read the footnote corresponding to the dagger and seen that there was no asterisk.

    3. In my post above, I used asterisks in two different ways that you may consider "common" — first to emphasis a word (or series of words) and second to "censor" out a word. Footnote markers add a third overload, and various programming languages add even more overloads. The dagger has no overloaded meaning (that I’m aware of; and they’d certainly not be "common" if there is one).

    4. And finally, if you simply *cannot stand* to see a dagger used as the first footnote marker, go read another blog. I’m all for pointing out mistakes and learning from it, but clearly it was an intentional descision by Raymond to use the dagger. Pointing it out over and over is not useful criticism, it’s annoying nitpicking.

  37. Peter says:

    Why do you keep building so many floating bridges when they keep sinking?  What do you have against fixed bridges?

  38. Andrew Harper says:

    I don’t think I’ve ever seen somebody get worked up over footnote markers before.

  39. Dean Harding says:

    Why do you keep building so many floating bridges when they keep sinking?

    How often do they sink anyway? I’d say Lake Washington is probably too deep and too wide to make fixed bridges cost-effective.

  40. James Schend says:

    Why do you keep building so many floating

    bridges when they keep sinking?  What do you

    have against fixed bridges?

    1) In all the decades we’ve had floating bridgesq in Washington, there has been ONE accidental sinking of one segment of one bridge. And it was human-error, not any problem with the design of the bridge. (An access hatch was left open.) IIRC, segments have been purposely sunk before to get rid of them after they’re obsolete.

    2) If you can figure out how to bridge Lake Washington with a conventional bridge, you’ll earn a billion bucks. It’s probably possible, but the engineering expense would be incredible.

    3) It’s a tourist draw. 4 out of 5 major floating bridges in the world are in Washington. That’s pretty cool, if you ask me.

  41. Igor says:

    "However, there are commonly accepted conventions."

    Sigh… Steve, has anyone explained to you the meaning of the phrase "anally retentive"?


  42. Katie says:

    I am not a programmer. I was searching Google for examples of how to use the dagger as a footnote. Your blog was one of the first hits. However, it does not seem right. And reading some of the comments seems to confirm that.

  43. Dean Harding says:

    I am not a programmer. I was searching Google for examples

    of how to use the dagger as a footnote.

    Ha-Ha! One of the problems of having a high PageRank is that you’re automatically an expert on every topic that may be mentioned in passing :-)

  44. Mooty says:


    From your link:

    anally retentive:

    "[…] the term is often used to describe a person deemed to be overly obsessed with minor details […]"

    Sounds like the characteristics of a programmer.

  45. Peter Kline (Wikipedia) says:

    I do not fully understand what is happening here. However, please do not vandalize the Wikipedia entry on the dagger.



    It was soon reverted.

  46. Igor says:

    Mooty said: "Sounds like the characteristics of a programmer."

    Mooty, someone discussing and even worse insisting on correct use of a dagger on this blog could be IMO considered "overly obsessed with minor details".

    Btw, have you met any programmers lately so that you can claim knowledge of their character?

  47. Zhrathon says:


    I think that was Mooty’s point: programmers are obsessed with minor details, ie anal retentive. We care about pointers, references, mutability, number of bytes, memory layout, calling conventions, and an endless number of minor details.

    We’re all anal retentive. It comes with the job.

  48. J.Random says:

    The real reason it’s called "Deutsches Museum" is because its full name is "Deutsches Museum von blabla bla blabla blabla bla", where the blahblah part is something like "amazing technical wonderworks".  So a rough English translation is "German Museum of Technical Wonders".

    (I’m sure Wikipedia has the full name, but I’m too lazy to look :-).

  49. Asterix says:

    I demand an asterisk!

  50. Igor says:

    Zhrathon said: "programmers are obsessed with minor details"

    I disagree and you are misunderstanding the term "minor details".

    Those things you mention are the basics of our job and therefore not minor.

    Furthermore, _bad_ programmers are obsessed with minor details, not the good ones.

    An example would be:

    1. void SomeFunc(char *Buffer)


    2. void SomeFunc(char* Buffer)

    Anally retentive programmer would argue endlessly whether it is better to put * next to the type or next to the variable.

    We have the same situation here. Some people are simply obsessed with the "incorrect" use of daggers.

    Zhrathon said: "We’re all anal retentive. It comes with the job."

    Yeah, well speak for yourself buddy.

  51. dsn says:

    Here, have an *.

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