Wednesday, April 26, 2006

What Causes Traffic Jams?

A pleasant sunny day, 13 degrees C where I cycled to work today. Again having to filter past substantial tailbacks of nose-to-tail traffic jams. But what causes this overcrowded delay?

Creating a checklist of usual reasons for such long traffic jams, I noticed none of these were the cause:

  • Road Traffic
  • Roadworks
  • Temporary Traffic Lights
  • Lane Closures
  • Extraordinary Sized Load (e.g. escorting a boat)
  • Police Road Closures
  • Mechanical Breakdowns
  • Punctured Tyres
  • Traffic Lights Not Working

So basically everything was perfect, nothing individually was going wrong or failing. Yet overall many drivers' journeys were very delayed, because of one factor.

The only cause of all these constant traffic jams, was the simple fact of too many vehicles in the same space at the same time.

This chronic traffic problem sees no prospects for getting any better:

According to the 2001 Census, more people in Britain now live in households with two or more cars (29%), than zero car households (27%).

Strangely it seems, many drivers have dropped their expectations so low, that it appears quite conventional to accept huge delays as "a normal day's journey" burning gallons of increasingly expensive fuel, in an inefficient exercise to crawl 5 miles in 1 hour.

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