You know it’s true, I know it’s true, we all know it’s true. The second that schools go on holidays, you start getting everywhere faster.
You shave up to 15 minutes off your commute into work, and all of a sudden you’re arriving in a good mood – even before you’ve had your morning coffee. The world’s brighter and full of opportunities and possibilities. You don’t connect it all at first, but suddenly you realise that this is because school kids are on holidays.
The thing is, you might not know why this has such a big impact on your life or how it works, so while the kids are on holidays, let me take you to school.
On average the change in traffic volume during school holidays is actually quite small. We’re talking about a difference in the order of about 3% of vehicles normally on the road during the start and end of the day. Yet this turns into a huge gain in terms of traffic flow and commuting times.
This makes perfect sense when you think about it. Here’s the simple version, roads are built to be used and used to as close to capacity as they can be. That’s called efficiency. The difficult part in road management is not in getting cars onto the road, it turns out that’s painfully easy, it’s in regulating the flow of traffic on these roads.
The biggest problem for road engineers/designers/managers is that they’re full of individuals who all think that whatever it is they’re doing is the MOST IMPORTANT THING IN THE WORLD and everybody else should just GET OUT OF THE FUCKING WAY to let them get on with it. In our more rational moments the enlightened members of the human race are able to recognise the inherent folly of such a line of thinking. Most of us just get pissed off.
So you’ve got roads that rapidly fill beyond their maximum efficient capacity, and in so doing cause people to become increasingly frustrated with the natural result – being stuck in traffic.
All of this adds up to a pretty nice picture of most major cities around the world. But here’s the rub – you can’t build more roads to reduce traffic. It doesn’t work and anyone who tells you otherwise is a lying liar and if you point them out to me I’ll go set their pants on fire for you. The reason you can’t build more roads to reduce traffic congestion is really bloody obvious. More roads encourages a growth in traffic, not a maintenance of the status quo. More roads = more cars = more congestion = more frustration.
The simple truth that most politicians (and drivers) are unwilling to admit is that the simplest, cheapest, most obvious and best way to reduce traffic is to use fewer cars. It’s pretty fucking simple people. You can fit 13 people in a mini (or 27 if they’re midgets/clowns- whatever), but once that car is full, it’s full. The only way to free up some space is to take some people out of the equation. So next time you’re stuck in traffic and you decide to take your anger out on the cyclist riding between you and the edge of the road, or the pedestrian crossing with their headphones on, just remember these aren’t the people who got you into this jam. Holy shit, you might even be happier if you just got out of your fucking car and left the traffic behind you too.
To summarise – you want less traffic? You want to enjoy the openness of the roads with the same sort of freedom and ease you get during the school holidays? Simple, stop driving you selfish fuck. I’ve got places to be.