A World With No Traffic: An Oxymoron No More?

Daunting....isn't it.

Daunting….isn’t it.

What is the one thing that every human in the world hates: TRAFFIC!.

Ok, so I didn’t think of some life altering idea that will revolutionize the very world as we know it, but rather identified traffic as something I pretty much am sure every human on earth hates. Also upon reading the prompt, the fact that Seth Godin’s ideas on Traffic was a link at the bottom seemed eerily serendipitous. But, again, I have never come across a traveler who smiles appreciatively upon gazing at the line of what appears to be 968 cars stacked bumper to bumper like an evil, bloodsucking serpent. Sorry…I got carried away.

But seriously, I know there are more and more drivers on the roads today with the increasing population, yet I find it interesting that we consider ourselves the peak of living species on this planet, but we can’t figure out how to get from point a to b without stopping, and starting, and stopping, and starting over and over and over and over…. But, it isn’t disputed that it has a series of trickle down costs, most incurred to things tangible like your health, but most importantly your mind pays a high price as well.

I managed to find a think tank corporation called RAND, and a team of researchers – who apparently really hate traffic – who sought out potential solutions to end this madness. These researchers went to inspect the worst traffic jams in the country through gathering data and speaking to members of the transit process. Here is the Rand research brief, Reducing Traffic Congestion in Los AngelesIf you want to read the full report, here it is, but it may be more boring than actual traffic. Interestingly enough, the researchers boiled it down to a simple supply & demand problem.

Here are the four main ideas from the aforementioned research brief above:

  • “Paired one-way street conversions can increase travel speed by about 20 percent and reduce travel time by 20 to 30 percent.
  • High-occupancy toll (HOT) lanes can maintain free-flowing travel speeds (60 to 65 mph) during peak travel hours while carrying up to twice the volume that congested general-purpose lanes do.
  • HOT lanes can also raise sufficient revenue to subsidize express-bus operations.
  • Bus rapid transit (BRT) featuring bus-only lanes can result in much faster transit service at relatively low cost.”

There is an ebb and flow between the demand for privately owned car highway transportation, and the supply of space to actually drive the cars. The most interesting thing I learned was that a term called Triple Convergence, and ya, I did just throw out a car traffic vocab word. It is the “route” of the problem because when you add more lanes, traffic will decrease for a short time. Then, when word spreads that the traffic is down, the previous users of the highway who had changed their transportation to avoid this traffic will return. Furthermore, many new travelers will choose this highway as their new way to get to work. The researchers focused on how to manage traffic at peak rush hour timeframes. They identified that the only way to reduce traffic in the long term is to increase the price of tolls. But with this, lower income citizens may not be able to afford driving themselves, and cities will need to put a prime focus on instituting cheap and efficient public transportation systems.

I believe that it would be best for the government to charge more for highway use, because it is a high demand service. The idea of paying for a faster lane is taking it a little too far though. On the contrary, that space should be used for bus lanes. More people will have to revert to public transportation, but this will put pressure on politicians and businesspeople to collaborate and provide faster and cheaper transit solutions. Businesses could materialize with mission statements that commit the company to providing more Americans with viable transportations services. But, society may be the essential piece. We need to be introspective and evaluate our modes of transportation. Most affluent families may have 2 to 3 cars, and I struggle to understand why so many young adults have cars when they live in big cities. I think as more public transportation appears, there can be a triple convergence, but this time, it will be the subways and buses.


3 comments on “A World With No Traffic: An Oxymoron No More?

  1. I remember in like 1990 hearing a news story about how these super computers that (maybe RAND?) had developed to study nuclear warfare scenarios were obsolete and were bieng reprogrammed to study traffic by simulating it and finding solutions.

    They couldn’t. Too hard.

    Nuclear warfare: winnable (supposedly).
    Traffic: too hard to solve.


  2. Charging more for highway use would not be a bad idea. They do so already on major toll roads like the NJ and PA turnpikes, but what’s to stop them on major highways like I-95 which goes through a majority of the major cities on the East Coast.

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