Chris Selley: Humans have failed at managing traffic congestion, so bring on … – National Post

Surrendering road travel to computers and robot cars evokes dystopian sci-fi scenarios, but few are grimmer than the westbound QEW early on a weekday evening

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I love how so many journalists who write opinion pieces about traffic, live close by and effectively don’t commute.

I hate the idea of tolling as a means of managing traffic congestion and I’d like to think that humans are smart enough to care about more than just themselves, given the right options.

Nevertheless some things seem as if they won’t change en masse without some extra pain. For example, companies may have flexi time built into their employment contracts, but they still want people in the office when they want them.

If every person in a company who could work from home one day a week did, there would be massive reductions in traffic congestion, but they need training to keep themselves on track as any self employed person will tell them, and they need Unified Comms and other systems that will allow their employers some degree beyond trust to make sure they are on the job. Many would, I believe be more productive.

One of the single biggest problems to me is people’s driving behavior. They either don’t know how to drive in heavy traffic or they don’t care. Examples:

If people merge onto the freeway at the same speed as the traffic that is already on it and those already on it make gaps, you won’t get those concertina effects where it speeds up, crawls, speeds up, crawls. That’s not design fault or lack of capacity, it’s driver behavior.

My pet peeve is rubberneckers. I see it several times a week where there is a crash and people on both sides of the highway slow to a crawl to get a look at what happened. Last week a truck slid off the motorway in Auckland. It was right off the motorway, but because of a precarious load it had to staycr there until the evening when there would be less impact caused by the two cranes needed to recover the truck and it’s load safely.

Despite the fact that the truck was off the road, for many hours, even after the safety vehicles were also long gone, traffic queues went for miles in both directions for many hours, including the direction that had no impact from the incident at all. This driver behavior causes so much congestion it’s crazy. A toll won’t fix that problem unfortunately. Neither will screens because people will still slow down to see what is behind the screen.

My last peeve today is people who get on the freeway at one ramp and straight off at the next. Combined with bad merging that causes so much congestion. In most cases they would be quicker using local roads, especially at peak times. That’s not what freeways were designed for.

I used to spend a lot of time with Japanese engineers who made some amazing technology that wasn’t always intuitive. When I pointed out customer feedback, their response was “You need to find better customers.”

Yes toll roads and toll lanes would ease traffic, but some people can afford it and wouldn’t care, some people can’t afford it and would continue to suffer.

If there was one thing I’d look at tolling, it would be single occupancy car commuters.

I hope that services like UberPool and Lyft will succeed in getting the masses to carpool where other systems have failed. It would be much better if people took the situation into their own hands and made smarter travel decisions.

There is also value in more people using smart navigation systems with real time traffic. These systems that can show you when arterials are in fact quicker than freeways for commuting work really well when a critical mass of people are using them, but when there aren’t, they can only give you information based one what they receive, depending on their algorithms and historic data.

Last week my TomTom told me to take the motorway and that it would take 48 minutes to get to work. I ignored it and went via local roads and almost immediately it told me I would get to work in 30 minutes and I did it in 29. I suspect they didn’t have sufficient critical mass of vehicles traveling on the arterial to make that call initially.

People use roads, they decide when and how to use them. They have that right. However if there was more education to teach them how to use them, there might be some aha moments and changes that we could all benefit from. I’d love to see a TV program with a psychologist, showing us normal people’s behavior. Not the boy racers, drunk drivers or people with a bad attitude. Just your every day driver like you and I. Maybe someone like Nigel Latta.

See on Scoop.itLocation Is Everywhere

About Luigi Cappel

Writer for hire, marketing consultant specialising in Location Based Services. Futurist and Public Speaker Auckland, New Zealand
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