density&diversity: Traffic Congestion

Every once in a while, the transit naysayers will point out that transit projects don't do anything to releive traffic congestion. For example, people said this a lot during the '04 transit strike, when the lack of buses didn't seem to affect the rush hours on I-94.

To those naysayers, I say: "Yes. You're right." Transit projects such as the LRT do very little to relieve freeway congestion.

But then to the naysayers I also say, "Nothing, nothing, nothinig will relieve congestion," while I jump and dance around in rags, clutching a walking stick, and wearing a bike helmet. I dance and leap in intricate cocentric circles, shouting "Nothing! Nothing! Nothing!" over and again, and the look in my eyes, the look that bespeaks of interminable human masses, the look that parts the curtains on the oceanic weight of six billion reproducing people, silences them and they sit down right in the median to gaze at the asphalt and count its pebbled flaws.

What I mean is, I was reading the New York Times magazine the other day, and came across this article about the inevitablity of traffic congestion.

The best part:
But gridlock, various experts have now concluded, cannot be "solved." (The express-lane plans actually presume continued gridlock; if adjacent lanes aren't crammed, who will opt to pay for a fast-moving alternative?) To dip into the oddly fascinating science of traffic is to find specialists grappling with both indeterminacy and ineluctability. On the one hand, theoretical physicists in Germany, busy comparing traffic flow to the movement of gas molecules, have suggested that tiny and inexplicable fluctuations in car speed or spacing can cause major disruptions that take a long time to clear up. On the other hand, the Principle of Triple Convergence prevails: expand capacity on a busy road, and within a short time, word of speedier travel will spread -- drawing drivers who previously resorted to different routes or off-peak hours or public transportation. Before you know it, the road will have returned to its earlier level of congestion.

As Kevin Costner said, "if you build it, they will come." The T.C. isn't even close to a gridlocked metro area, but it's getting there. Surprisingly soon, as more and more people move in to the metro's far reaches, it will be nearly impossible to reliably commute along the freeway. And, really, there's nothing we can do about it . . .

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