In The Radio Show

April 20, 2017

Interview with Tom Vanderbilt, author of the book Traffic

Mike Carruthers:
Everyone has their own theories on driving, like what’s the optimum highway speed. Well there are actually people who study this and the fact is…

Tom Vanderbilt:
As a system the highway works best at sixty miles per hour – it handles the most cars per hour as a system. For the individual, the individual would probably prefer to go seventy-five miles per hour but if the whole highway were going seventy-five it would actually be handling less traffic.

Tom Vanderbilt, author of the book Traffic, says it’s because people drive differently at higher speeds and they have to allow more room between cars. Now you know on a highway where one lane is closed for construction so everyone has to merge to the other lane, usually there’s a sign a mile or two back telling people to start to merge.

If the system were just set up in a way that advised people to use both lanes all the way to the merge point, you would not only eliminate all this sort of tension (that has been documented that this happens at these merges) it’s one of the most stressful experiences in driving – it’s been found in surveys. The system would actually perform fifteen percent better; you’d move more cars through the bottleneck.

It seems there are two types of parkers in a parking lot: those people who just take the first spot and those people who cruise around looking for the ideal spot.

The people that look for that ideal spot actually spend a longer time getting into the actual store entrances – and this has been documented by people – essentially clipboards and stopwatches in parking lots.

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