Why am I always late? The Science of Traffic Jams
There’s nothing more irritating than being stuck in the middle of a traffic jam. When you have places to go and things to do, traffic jams can cause you to be delayed to the point of being late by several hours. But have you ever wondered exactly what is the cause of traffic jams? Mathematicians have uncovered the Science of Traffic Jams, and take into account the problem of saturation and the three main theories to explain it.
Traffic jams are caused by factors such as saturation, weather, and roadwork. Saturation means that there is a vehicle demand for space while driving on the roads that is greater than what is available. One of the theories that explain the problem of saturation is The Butterfly Effect – a mathematical theory that states small disturbances like changing lanes can cause a sequence of events that slows everyone down.
Another theory, Invisible Waves, states that waves of congestion are created when an issue results in many cars stopping. When cars stop, other cars stop behind them and it creates a ripple effect. The third theory is that a Tragedy of Commons causes traffic jams. In other words, because roads are free to use, people will use them as much as they’d like and cause congestion.
Countermeasures to combat traffic problems include:
- Ramp signaling – Traffic signals allow cars to merge onto the highway at intervals
- Bus Lanes – Buses should have their own lanes so as not to interfere with free-flowing traffic
- Reversible Lanes – Lanes that switch direction depending on traffic volume can assist traffic flow during rush hour.