A suggestion to reduce traffic

On a visit to see my daughter in Grand Cayman, the problem of roads and traffic congestion has been in the news. More money spent on more roads won’t end congestion; in fact, counterintuitively, it may make it worse.

So what does work? How could the community get enough cars off the road at peak hours to keep traffic flowing? Whatever solution you try, there will be pros and cons, and civil servants are left with the unpalatable choice of who to disappoint. Not easy.

Many cities have ‘Park and Ride’ facilities linked to public transport, so one little ‘safe-fail experiment’ (concept by Dave Snowdon, Cognitive Edge) might be to set up a series of parking spaces along a route and try a ‘first three cars park, everyone gets into the fourth car and goes into town’.

This little experiment would soon reveal if and how people do or don’t react. For example, if they find it reduces commute times, they will respond by adopting it to get to work. It will also reveal flaws in the idea; for example, tradesmen who need to get to a worksite with a bunch of tools in their vehicle, or how the system reacts when it’s raining. Encourage people to complain – that way you can then adapt and keep trying until you find what works.

This sounds like a simple, even a silly idea, but there is sound complexity management theory behind it. Search on YouTube for Professor Jonas Eliasson’s TED Talk on why traffic is a non-linear phenomenon (https://youtu.be/CX_Krxq5eUI) meaning you only have to reduce the traffic by a small percentage to keep it flowing.

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So, a little imagination, some good PR and community involvement could change how the system as a whole develops. Then the government can work out just how much they need to spend on roads. It will likely be a lot, lot less than we think.

Jeremy Kidner

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