Monday, July 22, 2013

How Traffic is Like the Bread Supply in London

Answer: It’s a complex system that organizes itself. So says Jonas Eliasson, the Director of the Centre for Transport Studies at Sweden’sRoyal Institute of Technology (KTH). In this TED Talk, he shares his thoughts on how to solve traffic jams. Two key points:

1. Traffic is nonlinear — once volumes get above a certain threshold, congestion starts getting really bad really quickly … and the reverse is true as well.

2. No one is “in charge" of traffic (as noted above, it’s a complex system that organizes itself), but incentives can be put in place that nudge motorists to adapt to a new framework. Think HOV lanes and ExpressLanes.

And it turns out, people who resist a given change initially (such as adding carpool lanes to a freeway) often end up supporting it once they experience the benefits.