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SMART TRANSIT Opinion Piece


“Could there be traveler information that would reduce the probability of congestion in the first place? I think there could”


One of Warsaw’s main traffic arteries, a typically congested road in a European city that would benefit from a clear plan to get drivers out of their cars and onto public transport...or into a carpooling scheme


home or take an umbrella. What about if the ‘trafficman’ says there will be congestion? In the March/April 2013 issue of Thinking Highways col-


umnist Paul Hutton took issue with people who, “when they hear of jams, drive straight towards them because they ‘know they’ll be gone when I get there because information is always out of date’”. Hutton insisted that this view is 30 years out of date. I think the issue here is that the effect of issuing the fore-


cast changes the outcome. It doesn’t work that way with the weather, but it does with the traffic, because if just 10 per cent of people change their plans based on the forecast the other 90 per cent might find no congestion, because a 10 per cent reduction can be all it takes to return traffic to free-flow. Each time that happens, the impact of the forecast will be less. Could there be traveler information that would reduce


the probability of congestion in the first place? I think there could. It has to do with how people plan their travel. Much of it is planned well in advance – days or even weeks. Collectively, the plans of all those commuters, several days before they travel, add up to a congested road. What could be


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needed is a trigger that gets some commuters to make a plan in advance to be a passenger some of the time. For example, if Wednesdays are a particularly high peak


day, we could focus on telling people how much the traffic needs to be reduced on Wednesdays. If 8:30 to 8:45 am is the worst of the peak on Wednesdays, we could focus the mes- sage on reducing traffic at that time. Perhaps we could communicate (as an example) that there


are generally (say) 500 too many drivers arriving at a particu- lar intersection between 8:30 and 8:45 am on Wednesdays. We might ask people who travel at that time through that intersection to pledge to be a passenger every Wednesday at that time. Enough acted-on pledges would free up that traffic. An ITS application could help us calculate the 500, another could gather the pledges, and yet another could report the results. This is about changing the underlying shape of the traffic.


With this type of information, and a campaign to inform and engage them, individual drivers could choose which day and time slot they are going to help fix. If everyone changed from being a driver just one day a week there would be a 20 per cent


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


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