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SMART TRANSIT Opinion Piece


The brains of the operation


Paul Minett wonders just how intelligent intelligent transport systems actually are…


W


hen Thinking Highways arrives in my mail- box I get a chuckle out of the term Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS). I wonder: how intelli-


gent is a transport system that operates at less than 25 per cent effectiveness? I understand that the tools most readers of the magazine provide or purchase are designed to add intelligence to the system, not necessarily to make it intel- ligent, but it does seem there is a long way to go. In my utopian world people would make much more intel-


ligent use of the system and as a result it would move many more people with much less delay. As an advocate of greater levels of ridesharing (people catching a ride in a car, van, or bus that is already making the trip), I think that the potential benefits from getting more people to be passengers more of the time would dwarf the significant benefits that have come so far from fine-tuning the system with ITS. That’s why I am writing this piece for Thinking Highways.


We need your help. Traffic congestion is caused by there being too many driv-


ers for a given amount of road. I know you were always told it is caused by there being too many vehicles, but every vehi- cle has a driver and it was not the vehicle that decided to be there. When I look at the flow of traffic, I see a flow of drivers,


and I know that with a little effort more of them could have been passengers. And given the number of empty seats in that traffic, I also know that they could have done it in exist- ing vehicles, resulting in a net reduction in traffic, fuel use, emissions, traveler time, household transportation costs, and so on. When I see the North American-sourced statistics that


show that only 9.6 per cent of road-based commuters are travelling as passengers (3.5 per cent on buses, and 6.1 per cent as ‘car- and van-pool passengers’ (c/v)), and I compare those flows with the potential flows if there were no empty seats – that is how I conclude that the system is operating at less than 25 per cent effectiveness. A staggering 300+ million empty seats are driven to work every day by about


A major increase in ridesharing schemes would improve congestion, pollution and our general quality of life


52 thinkinghighways.com Vol 8 No 3 Europe/Rest of the World


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