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Traffic Flow Theory

Newly discovered subject that strikes me as so facsinating that I will be completely obsessed with it for two or three weeks, after which I will forget all about it: Traffic! Flow! Theory!

  • William Beaty is a fellow Seattleite and science hobbiest. He has put together a fantastic page with his observations about traffic, and what ordinary citizens can do to alleiviate traffic jams. He also has an explanation for those "phantom accidents" we have all experienced -- those instances where traffic is all backed up at a certain point, but when you reach the "bottleneck" you discover there is no discernable reason for the slow down. Mr. Beaty's article is so well written and researched that it was even featured in both the San Franscico Chronicle and BBC News.
  • Want to study Traffic Flow Theory without paying for the gas? This page has a number of java applets which allow you to create your own traffic paterns, complete with different scenarios (on-ramps, uphill grades, traffic lights), adjustable "rate of flow" paramaters and even a "Truck to car ratio" setting.
  • Here's an entire chapter from a book entitled "Principles of Driving Psychology." An excerpt:
    A common fear of drivers is that they will break the unspoken rules of the road and thus cause others to hate them. When we inconvenience other drivers, we expect them to react with negative thoughts and emotions aimed at us. In traffic, as a rule, we cut each other no slack, and we attribute negative reactions to all other drivers. How close is this imagined response to reality? The drivers we talked to admitted that they don't always think negatively about other drivers, though it's routine to do so. So, much of what we imagine others are thinking of us as drivers is just fantasy. But these fantasies are standard attributions we make in traffic, and they are knitted into the fabric of our thoughts and feelings while driving.
  • Washington Post: how computers are being used to simulate and study Traffic Flow Theory.

Posted on June 06, 2002 to