How to Fix Traffic Congestion, According to Mathematicians

Spoiler: More lanes are not the solution

Traffic jam solutions in the United States
Everyone hates traffic congestion. So why haven't we fixed it yet?
pixaoppa/Pixabay
By Alex Lauer / January 27, 2020 1:01 pm

No matter how many times you hear it, adding more lanes will not fix our country’s traffic problems. In fact, road expansion is actually linked to worse traffic, pollution and accidents. Stop trying to make more lanes happen!

What is the solution, then? Fast Company tried to find out by speaking with Alexander Krylatov, professor at St. Petersburg University and co-author of Optimization Models and Methods for Equilibrium Traffic Assignment, a new book looking at the problem from a mathematician’s point of view. 

In other words, Krylatov and co. take a different tack compared to transportation engineers and economic advisors, looking at the traffic system as a whole algorithmic problem rather than individual pieces.

As Fast Company cites, there are four main solutions that, when implemented together, could reduce urban congestion: placing all drivers on the same navigation system (instead of some on Waze, some on Apple Maps), instituting parking bans on certain narrow roads, designating lanes for electric vehicles only, and creating software that maps the entirety of the area’s roadways. 

“Every year a considerable budget is allocated for improving roads,” Krylatov told Fast Company. “[Our models] suggest a set of solutions for the efficient management of these funds.”

Even for those who don’t white-knuckle it to work every day, fiscal responsibility makes the issue of road improvements universal. But while the authors note that this book “may be of interest to a wide range of readers,” maybe just send a link to your local representative instead. 

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