Monday, March 17, 2014

Avoid Road Closure Delays

It is March in Middle America after a particularly rough winter.  To me, that is not heralding spring (we've got a few more weeks here before I get to venture out into the garden), but the beginning of road construction season.  Since I drive on the interstate more than your average Joe, this is more of a self service announcement - but I will pretend that it is a public service.

We can solve the problem of construction delays WITH THE POWER OF SCIENCE!

Study after study (and a bunch of others, I've included a little bibliography because there are some really interesting traffic resources out there) has shown that when facing lane closures, in congested traffic, the best thing you can do, as a driver, to reduce delays, is to use the open lanes for as long as possible and then merge smoothly.

 If this doesn't make sense intuitively - think about it like this: The late merge is more efficient for the same reason that having two lanes is generally more efficient than having one lane.

If you still hate the idea, think about this:  Interstate 80 stretches from New York City to San Fransisco.  I guarantee that at some point along that length, the right lane is closed.  Why haven't you merged already?!?!

So, take some time to read through these materials about road traffic (not just zipper/late merge, but some other stuff too (quit hitting your brakes!  And you don't need to go 15 under when you pass a cop!)).  Grit your teeth when you see someone still in the closing lane 1 mile before it is going to close - they are acting in your best interests (though probably they aren't thinking of that).

And tell your family, friends, neighbors - heck, tell some strangers about this!  I'm tempted to printed these out and leave them on people's windshields!  Then maybe, slowly, we'll create a world where 1 mile of lane closure doesn't cause a 20 mile traffic jam.

Minnesota Dept. of Transportation - They are propagandizing the late merge pretty hard
Federal Highway Administration
How We Drive
An example of the vitriol surrounding this subject - calm it on down! source of the gifs and the thing I most recommend you read.  It has the potential to revolutionize the American traffic experience.  Absolutely brilliant stuff!


  1. It's working! Since posting my page on traffic dynamics Zen, my favorite jam in Seattle has disappeared. Too many other commuters are now leaving big gaps. That jam used to grow all the way back to the Ranier Beer Sign, and sometimes I could bust it myself. Also, suddingly there are lots of articles about "traffic deaths lowest since 1905." But that might be caused by the number of airbag-equipped vehicles passing some threshold...

    1. ...That and how medical intervention is better able to save lives that might otherwise be lost. And perhaps the actual use of seat belts instead of the option of them.
      Let me say how much you've made my day stopping by my site! My husband and I have spent hours on yours. You epitomize what I think is cool about science. We plan to proselytize as frequently as possible!



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