Tuesday, March 28, 2006

New Transportation Thinking in Old York

The ancient city of York, England, may have some lessons for congestion-plagued cities in the United States. Englishmen like their cars, but York, with its historic buildings and Medieval street layout, has limited options for expanding capacity. An academic team led by professor Mike Smith, a mathemetician at York University, is producing "mathematical models of traffic flow, working from calculations based on the width and length of road and the number of vehicles passing per minute." (See the article in the Yorkshire Post.)

These mathematical models are used to guide the city's traffic light signalling system. According to the Post, "The new system spreads the traffic load more widely across the city's road network to ease pressure on the most congested areas, and upgraded technology enables much faster communication between traffic controls."

Highway engineers from as far away as Australia, Japan and the United States have visited York to watch the traffic lights in action. Virginia has experimented with traffic light synchronization, mainly in Northern Virginia, but has hardly maximized the potential. Ironically, the Old Dominion has some of the most advanced Modeling & Simulation capabilities in the world. Surely we can apply the lessons of old York to our own congested streets and highways.

(Thanks to Jim Wamsley for forwarding this article to me.)


At 10:37 AM, Blogger Ray Hyde said...

"The new system spreads the traffic load more widely across the city's road network ...."

Well, fancy that. Do I need a computer model to tell me the way you diffuse congestion is to spread it out?

Dilution is not the solution to pollution, but pollution is a lot more dangerous when it is all in one place. Given that we have the people (pollution), what we need is more places, not more people in the same places.

Imagine, here is a scientist coming to grips with the idea that there is a maximum workable traffic density, and a maximum workable road density. By extension, this would imply a maximum workable population density. Now all we have to do is agree on what those parameters are.

For that young couple in Caroline county, they are different than for the new residents of Metro West. Einstein tells us that space and time are a continuum: apparently people are willing to trade one for the other, and energy is the medium of exchange.

Free trade anyone?

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