Innovative Ways to Tackle Traffic Gridlock

BridgeTraffic gridlock is a major problem in most cities in America.

Even when I lived in a rural city in Oregon, people complained about the traffic because the highway went through the city, making it difficult for people to make turns without oncoming traffic speeding their way.

After being gone from from South Florida for 10 years, the god-awful traffic had just gotten worse. It seems like a 10-minute drive could routinely take 30-40 minutes. Just this week in Sarasota, it took me 10 minutes just to get out of downtown. I’m not even talking about the traffic getting off Siesta Key or Lido Beach during season. That alone can take 45 minutes.

Traffic jams are inconvenient, fertile environment for road rage and a major contributor to air pollution.

The driving force, pun intended, behind traffic jams is increased population and decreased funding for adequate mass transportation.

Building wider roads and more roads has always been a solution and it certainly can, in the short-term, ease congestion. More car pool lanes. But Americans have a love affair with cars. Perhaps it is the last bastion for quiet solitude away from the masses, and we won’t let that go..

One BBC report said some cities are banning cars from an area.

A Georgia Institute of Technology study blamed aggressive driving and timid drivers as factors causing roadblocks. Sudden braking causes a ripple effect to slow traffic even miles away. Another challenge is business districts is waiting for a car to find a parking space and then to park. San Francisco and LA are testing out sensors that tell cars where vacant parking spots are located, eliminating gridlock caused by people looking for a spot.

Rather than hovercrafts that were portrayed in the “Back to the Future” movies, science fiction is coming to life with cars communicating with each to help keep traffic moving. In addition, social media has come to the rescue. An Israeli-app, Waze, is a GPS map that uses social media to help drivers navigate problem areas.

Public transportation services and carpooling also have been a public policy, which, if more people take advantage of it, could help. But who hasn’t felt road rage when during rush-hour traffic you are bumper to bumper and the  HOV lane is empty. I’ve wondered whether traffic would be eased if all the lanes were used by drivers. Certainly, if people shared sedan services or taxis going to work, that could help.

Cities can also look at the innovation that New York, Sidney, Australia and Curitiba, Brazil have employed. New York’s Midtown in Motion project aims at using sensors and E-Zpass readers as well cameras at 23 intersection to collect traffic data that will be then analyzed, and then used to help traffic flow. More than a decade ago, New York implemented software to optimize traffic signals.

Sidney uses the “Sydney Coordinated Adaptive Traffic System (SCAT) to determine how many vehicles are on the road and then adjust traffic signals, accordingly. Curitiba’s bus system uses transit-only traffic lanes, ticket counters and sensors to coordinate traffic signals.

There is a lot to be done before traffic jams are footnotes in history. People don’t want to spend their livings honking others. Quality of life is very important in today’s society.

Not spending half your life in gridlock is not conducive to quality of life. There are many factors that can help alleviate traffic jams — technology, smarter use of taxis and  and mass transit to help improve traffic flow. More roads and wider roads