Traffic Congestion: Theories, Impact and Countermeasures
Theories Used to Predict Traffic Congestion
Several mathematical theories have been used to predict traffic congestion. Many have compared traffic congestion to fluid dynamics, as spontaneous jams can occur due to a minor event in instances of traffic that is heavy, though free flowing. Unfortunately, traffic can be affected by many events, such as signals, entries from on ramps, departures onto exit ramps, accidents and road construction.
In addition, with so many goods being shipped throughout the U.S. via highways, packages commonly fall from trucks and also play a part in traffic congestion. Because there are so many factors, it is difficult to predict the true flow of traffic at any given time with the use of theoretical models. Yet, empirical models are beginning to shed some light on the issue.
Economics also plays a part in traffic congestion. In countries like India and China, economic growth has caused a massive increase in road usage, thus resulting in severe congestion of traffic. It is believed that highway privatization and possible toll roads may help to decrease traffic congestion; however, this proposed solution also has its downfalls.
Standard workdays are believed to be a main cause of traffic congestion – think rush hour traffic – that is inevitable unless businesses restructure their working hours. Public transportation, in combination with toll roads, may help to decrease the traffic congestion and the funds raised from toll-ways can be rolled into expanding public transportation.
Negative Impacts of Traffic Congestion
Obviously, traffic congestion is associated with many negative effects. It wastes the time of drivers and their passengers. Traffic congestion is often responsible for causing delays that result in lost work time, lost time for education, lost business and more; much of which has dire consequences such as personal loss or disciplinary action.
Traffic congestion also results in additional non-productive activity, thus reducing economic health. Drivers become frustrated or stressed, making congested highways unsafe for motorists due to the higher potential for road rage. Drivers traveling congested highways also have to deal with additional costs due to congestion because of the additional fuel burned sitting in traffic, along with the wear on their vehicles. Of course, the increased air pollution and emissions released is no friend to the environment, but an even more worrisome issue is that emergency vehicles may not be able to get to the scene of an accident or their passengers to a hospital when highways are congested.
Countermeasures have been suggested to help alleviate the burden of traffic congestion; however, the costs associated with these measures often result in keeping things just the way they are. Some of the proposed changes have been road infrastructure improvements like grade separation, reduced or improved junctions, reversible lanes, limited access roadways, bus lanes, carpool lanes, improved grid plans, mixed-use development, car-free cities and transit-oriented developments.
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