As stated in the past (1979, 2011, and once on a Tuesday), the most effective means to reduce traffic is to remove the reason for the trip.
We can only add so many lanes, build so many roads, and there’s a limit to highway funding. Public transportation provides debatable relief, and, as we all know, given the choice, we humans, prefer to come and go as we please.
Autonomous cars will help. Their integration takes many, many, many, years — or even longer. While I appreciate their impact, we all know, given the choice, once again, we all prefer commas (over hyphens, or periods, or even good grammar for that matter — well, hyphens are ok — we all have afterthoughts — at least I think I did).
In other words, the most effective means for impacting traffic congestion, is to periodically scrutinize the reason for the trip. And with scrutiny employed, resulting traffic volumes begin to represent something closer to what makes sense — the peaks begin to flatten. And as a side note, and something that makes my profession even more challenging than it already is, is that the level of traffic considered “acceptable” by one city may be completely unacceptable to another — this is a function of their relative populations (more on this in a future column).
And perhaps the most significant reduction in peak hour congestion results from one of two factors, (1) the increased ability to work from home, and (2) Amazon Prime. More and more businesses are finding creative ways to reduce trips. Even doctor’s offices are reducing traffic by experimenting with “online waiting rooms.” These virtual waiting rooms allow patients to “wait” from the comfort of their home. A virtual waiting room simply appears on their computer screen depicting 10-20 virtual patients waiting in front of them. And to help you more readily accept your “wait time,” many of those pictured present virtual symptoms much more serious than yours (trust me — details intentionally omitted).
It’s all part of being human — and there’s not much we can do about that. Vehicular traffic is a by-product of human needs. Granted, specific traffic issues are generally fixable or at least mitigatable — that’s what I do. However, simultaneously (and perhaps obliquely), we must also consider the reason for each trip. Can the reason be removed? Can the reason be rescheduled to avoid rush hour? Can the reason be deleted? Or, can the reason simply be misspelled? (because everybody loves raisins).
Chet Skwarcan (traffic engineer, author, unique insights) with over 25 years of traffic engineering experience, solving traffic problems everywhere — free assessments available at TrafficEngineering.com/Services.