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Stuck in Traffic

Traffic congestion may well affect our driving habits and test our engineering skills for decades to come. Americans drive two times as much as we did twenty-nine years ago, but road capacity has had a scant increase of three percent.

Some cities have responded by charging gridlock fees. It is not uncommon in Europe to find congestion fees charged to motorists who want to drive during typical gridlock hours. The results have been traffic congestion and increased pedestrian and bicycle passage. One such proposal for New York City failed last year, but it looks promising for passage in Seattle.

Over 200,000 million dollars in gasoline was estimated to be lost to traffic congestion in 2007.

There are causes of gridlock unrelated to capacity such as construction, accidents, weather, and even poor traffic signal timing, but low capacity tops out the list at forty-percent.

Of course a simple solution seems to be more lanes, and experts agree. In fact, if we were to double the number of lanes on off ramps alone, some think it could move us toward a major reduction in gridlock. There are other simple solutions we could adopt almost immediately, like adding a few seconds to the yellow at traffic lights. Another suggestion to less congested driving is simply removing crashed vehicles faster.

There are more complex fixes in the offing, as well. Some scientists are projecting a design that identifies congestion as sonic waves. Imagine if every time you stepped on your breaks while caught in traffic, it caused a virtual bulge in the highway. Studying these bulges, or waves, in the road would allow engineers to predetermine areas were the highway should be widen to accommodate traffic congestion.

Another proposed relief for traffic congestion is to pay people to stop driving. Washington, D.C., already bribes its motorists at the rate of two dollars per day if they carpool. Such payments convinced twenty-nine thousand Atlanta, Georgia drivers to carpool. A reported sixty-four percent of the Atlanta drivers continued commuting together even after the pay to carpool program ended.

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Stuck in Traffic
Stuck in Traffic

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