Saturday, September 11, 2010

Follow Up: Clearing Traffic Jams

More thoughts on improving traffic. First there was the idea that traffic signals and signs may be the cause of congestion and not the solution and then there was an example of how drivers react when traffic lights are removed.

So it may be possible to ease congestion, increase traffic flow, and cut down on accidents and wasted time by removing traffic lights and unnecessary traffic signs. That's great for city traffic. What about highways?

What happens when those wide open stretches of asphalt become parking lots? When there are many lanes of horrible traffic jams? What about those small jams that appear out of nowhere with no rhyme or reason? Is there a way to get rid of those and make the commute easier?

William Beatty may have the answer. The answer may be that even a single driver can erase those stop and go traffic jams.

Yes.... erase. As in remove completely.

First he explains that they aren't so much jams as traffic waves. If a car is slowed down then the one behind it slows down and so on. A wave of slow cars interrupts the flow of traffic. Then he explains one way of making the waves vanish. Don't be part of the wave - disrupt it by driving a constant speed behind those cars in front of you that are doing the "stop and go" thing. He then goes on to look at the slowdowns that occur when lanes merge.

This isn't just a theory. He has video to prove it works. Just taking the time to remove the wave helps smooth out traffic behind. Maybe one driver can make a difference on the highway.

And if you want to learn more about how traffic works and what can be done about it he has a page of links to information, theory, traffic simulators, and lots of other resources.

We may never get rid of congestions while there are cars on the road and we may not be able to get rid of wasted gas and time on the highway or in the city. But it's nice to know that drivers can help make things better on the roads.

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