Radically Rethinking Solutions to the Traffic Jam

Planners once thought that building more and wider roads was the solution, but a new study out of California finds that 90% of any new road capacity will be swallowed up by traffic within just five years.

What's the Latest?


Conventional wisdom about how to combat traffic jams has been overturned. Planners once thought that building more and wider roads was the solution, but a new study out of California finds that 90% of any new road capacity will be swallowed up by traffic within just five years. In other words, more roads invite more cars. Furthermore, scientific attempts to understand traffic flow patterns have been thwarted. Gabor Orosz of the University of Michigan: Although analogies to fluids, gasses, birds, and even skiers have been proposed, "it is becoming more and more obvious that traffic flows like no other flow in the Newtonian universe”.

What's the Big Idea?

Cities are beginning to innovate as traffic congestion begins to take a serious tole. Sitting in traffic increases gas consumption, stifles productivity while workers and goods sit idle, and harms the health of inner-city dwellers. Moscow has begun using smart parking spaces that alert drivers electronically when they are available. Google's automated vehicles reduce congestion by "platooning" lines of cars, removing torpid and unpredictable human behavior from the equation. London has shown a preference for policy solutions whereby specific driving taxes, and other legal measures, are implemented to discourage inner-city driving. 

Read more at BBC Future

Photo credit: Vereshchagin Dmitry/Shutterstock

Related Articles

Human skeletal stem cells isolated in breakthrough discovery

It's a development that could one day lead to much better treatments for osteoporosis, joint damage, and bone fractures.

Image: Nissim Benvenisty
Surprising Science
  • Scientists have isolated skeletal stem cells in adult and fetal bones for the first time.
  • These cells could one day help treat damaged bone and cartilage.
  • The team was able to grow skeletal stem cells from cells found within liposuctioned fat.
Keep reading Show less

How exercise helps your gut bacteria

Gut bacteria play an important role in how you feel and think and how well your body fights off disease. New research shows that exercise can give your gut bacteria a boost.

National Institutes of Health
Surprising Science
  • Two studies from the University of Illinois show that gut bacteria can be changed by exercise alone.
  • Our understanding of how gut bacteria impacts our overall health is an emerging field, and this research sheds light on the many different ways exercise affects your body.
  • Exercising to improve your gut bacteria will prevent diseases and encourage brain health.
Keep reading Show less

Giving octopuses ecstasy reveals surprising link to humans

A groundbreaking new study shows that octopuses seemed to exhibit uncharacteristically social behavior when given MDMA, the psychedelic drug commonly known as ecstasy.

Image: damn_unique via Flickr
Surprising Science
  • Octopuses, like humans, have genes that seem to code for serotonin transporters.
  • Scientists gave MDMA to octopuses to see whether those genes translated into a binding site for serotonin, which regulates emotions and behavior in humans
  • Octopuses, which are typically asocial creatures, seem to get friendlier while on MDMA, suggesting humans have more in common with the strange invertebrates than previously thought
Keep reading Show less