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

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