Fixing the unfixable? What Makes Traffic Difficult?
So we, as a country, are hooked on our vehicles, this shouldn’t come as a surprise to many of you and nor does it surprise me. I, like 9 in 10 Americans, drive to work every day and on top of that, I, like three-quarters of Americans, drive to work alone (The Atlantic)! These numbers are what surprise and in many ways frighten me. These statistics, regardless of validity, present an overall trend in our society. That trend being, an increasing reliance on our personal vehicles and lack of public transport choice/usage. What does this trend look like in general numbers of “passenger vehicles” on the road today? According to the statistic gathering website, statisa.com, in 2016 there were approximately 113 million passenger vehicles on the road today (Statista Source).
Staggering isn’t it? When we account for the other types of vehicles, i.e. motorcycles, trucks and etc, the number gets closer to 269 million motor vehicles (almost 1 car for every 2 Americans). So what does that mean for our infrastructure and our traffic situation? Well, in my opinion, it’s a bloody recipe for disaster! Now getting rid of cars is not going to be the easiest nor correct policy response. In order to solve this issue of traffic and infrastructure, we need to think of 1) the psychology of the commuter, 2) the “phenomena” of traffic (i.e. shockwaves, and the dreaded ‘phantom traffic jam’), 3) the design of current infrastructure and 4) the public opinion. I plan on writing more in-depth about the mechanisms and theory behind traffic policy so these 4 points will be explained in more detail and depth. For now, they present a good guide to the discussion of why traffic exists and why it is so difficult to solve.
Personally, these two videos should be mandatory for policy-makers and decision-makers, likewise for the general populace too!
The first video is from the SciShow on Youtube, which if you haven’t started watching their videos, you’ve been missing out. In this video, the SciShow breaks down the most commonly cited reasons for traffic and how policies created in response have either worked or failed. Take a moment to watch and form your own educated opinion.
This second video, produced by VOX, nails the issue of left lane “camping” perfectly. For me, this is one of the biggest pet peeves I have when driving. Again, watch the video and see what you think. If you are a driver that stays in the left lane, did this video help? Or is the “issue” of left lane camping a “non-issue”?