Traffic Science

Like everybody else who lives in our city I have wondered what exactly causes traffic and is there anything that I can do to stop it? Is it just due to volumes of cars, or is it due to people’s bad driving habits? Mostly I have leaned towards the latter. That people drive in such a way that generates traffic.

TrafficObsessive lane-changing would be my number one guess as to the culprit. People who decide that they need to try and shave .5 seconds off of their hour long commute by switching into the lane next to them, only to slow it down when the person they cut off is forced to slow down, and when fifteen other impatient fools in rattling imports try the same maneuver.

Anyways, regardless of the exact maneuver, I have always thought that it was impatient drivers who create traffic and every time I see this I think to myself that if I ever run for mayor I will run on a platform of draconian traffic laws to stop this. Or at least give people who drive like crap higher insurance premiums or something.

What I am trying to get to is this…Traffic Wave Experiments…wherein an intrepid traffic researcher goes into the field and notices that his calm, collected behavior on the road actually reduce traffic around him. That by resisting the urge to be impatient he can dissolve the standing waves that are traffic. I like this. It almost makes me want to hop into a traffic jam to try it out. I think that we all should try stuff like this, and then pass it on to others.

I am sure that there are other ways that we, as Los Angeles citizens, can help fight traffic. What are your ideas? Besides “get off the road” or “ride a bike”.

15 Replies to “Traffic Science”

  1. Assy driving certainly doesn’t help, but obviously it’s sheer volume that is the most significant culprit. Freeways can only hold a finite number of cars on them, and during rush hour, the rate at which cars are trying to get on the freeways is greater than the rate at which they are trying to get off. The more tightly packed cars become, the slower they must drive.

    It also doesn’t help that most people probably don’t live near where they work, but that can’t really be helped.

  2. I drive from Downtown to the Westside on the 10. In the car I play this game: I leave a safe distance between the car in front of me and count how many times the car in front of me hits the brakes before I touch the pedal. The record is 64!

    People tailgating/hurry and brake is a huge cause of traffic. Other people see brake lights and immediately hit the brakes themselves, whether they need to or not. Brake lights are contagious.

  3. Traffic has one main cause, namely TMC= Too Many Cars.

    Engineers have to work with the humans they have and design for human nature. It is absurd to expect people to change for the built environment. ain’t gonna happen.

    Oh, or were we just engaged in a little bloggy negative attitude display. That is getting so old, already.

    The Snark turned out to be a Boojum. or hadn’t you heard?

  4. I think it is true that lane changing is largely useless except in areas of merging or where there is an accident.

    everyone has had those ‘office space moments’ where they keep changing lanes, only to have their target lane stop cold and their previous lane move cars smoothly by them

  5. Cel phones, I believe, are the main factor in most traffic jams of late. People talking on phones means they’re not paying attention enough, or trying to overcompensate by driving too slowly.

  6. I have to agree. If I resist the strong urge to get aggro like everyone else on the road, I find that I get places easier, enjoy the drive more, and don’t have assholes treating me like roadkill. It’s pretty remarkable, actually. How often, even when you aren’t in a hurry, do you get all pissy on the road for no reason?

  7. I think better driving could cure our traffic problems but wider freeways and less cars are really all that will DEFINITELY do it.

    The one thing that drives me mad when I’m commuting.. maintaining a safe distance and not changing lanes.. is when the guy in front of me slows down so much, and leaves so much space, that he lets every impatient driver go from the other lane in in front of him.
    I always go around those people.

    Anyway.. just my two cents.

  8. I get so bored during my commute that I try to see how long I can go before braking. The upside is that it lessens the tedious “speed up/slow down to move 10 feet forward syndrome.” The downside is that there is a massive SUV monster truck glued to my backside because I have the gall to allow 10 feet of space in front of me. Serenity now . . .

  9. I get so bored during my commute that I try to see how long I can go before braking and at the same time maintain a consistent speed. The upside is that it lessens the tedious “speed up/slow down to move 10 feet forward syndrome.” The downside is that there is a massive SUV monster truck glued to my backside because I have the gall to allow 10 feet of space in front of me.

  10. How about the lady in the car in front of me driving 15 miles an hour and swerving, probably because she’s smoking a cigarette, holding her dog in her lap, talking on her cellphone, and fixing her makeup in the mirror?

  11. As one of the VERY few people in LA who actually drive a car with a Manual Transmission, I find traffic to be the most severely frustrating experience of my life. Mostly because I do actually leave a good 3 seconds of space in front of me and people take this as an invitation to merge right into this space. :/

    I try to avoid the freeways as much as possible, namely by taking the train, bus, subway, whatever, whenever possible.

  12. I’ve been trying Hoot’s “game” since I read this and it’s definitely making a difference in my own commute (Hollywood to Santa Monica= 45 minutes to an hour most days. Each way.). I down-shift instead of brake and I feel like it keeps things flowing. Slowly, but it’s something.

    And has anyone else noticed that blinkers & turn signals seem to have become optional lately?

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