Stuck in a Jam ?

Yesterday a loose horse held up traffic on the M25, the London orbital road and some people were stuck for as long as nine hours.  Even without the aid of a horse, traffic can be held up on the M25 stuck in a Jam and queues of traffic are a common experience countrywide.  In my small town, I’ve been stuck in a traffic Jam for two hours travelling two miles.

Of course, busy roads mean that there is a thriving economy because people are travelling to jobs and more goods are arriving and leaving indicating more wealth.  There is a tipping point however and it is now widely agreed that delays don’t just exasperate the unfortunate road traveller, who spends around 224 days in queues per annum.

Stuck in traffic

In 2014 INRIX used data from 2013 to predict traffic costs to the economy up to 2030.  The costs will steadily escalate to an alarming £21 billion in 2030.  This is down to increased population, increased Gross Domestic Product and better fuel efficiency and other factors that cheapen car ownership.  Against this is the backdrop of a shrinking public transport network, increased fares and delays that are sometimes comparable to those on the road.  It is generally cheaper to travel by car, especially if there is a group travelling together.

Localised reasons for queues are various; crashes that are often many miles away, roadworks on overused roads, huge volumes of traffic or poor road aggravated by selfish driving.  The latter is interesting because it surmises the issues that caused the very word to first occur.  This was not in the UK but in New York.

New York traffic with the iconic Yellow Cabs

Traffic engineers in 1980 had to deal with dreadful traffic problems due to a strike.  It was worked out at that time that since the roads were laid out in a grid it was quite possible for traffic to block all four corners of the grid.  People selfishly drove into the box junction at the corners and blocked everyone in to gain their own advantage.  There are now strict rules about blocking box junctions but road design is a crucial issue in many UK towns.  Our roads are comparatively narrow within in high density urban settings so it is difficult re-route roads.  Even the biggest roads like the M25 are often simply full, it sometimes jokingly called the London carpark, and if there is a problem there, traffic spills out in all directions into small towns beyond.

The solutions look difficult but possible.  Current use of SatNavs allows people to find better routes and avoid some very long queues.  Self-drive cars are being developed, not much so because they allow people to play Pokemon Go more easily, but so that roads can be used in an optimum way and traffic can flow more easily.

Public transport can be improved and in many countries it can be incredibly fast, perhaps Britain will one day have its own Bullet Train like Japan.  There are some ways of dealing with the problem and there is hope.

Have a good journey this weekend.

The much dreamt-of open road