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Car & Driver

August 16, 2012

“Syncing Traffic Lights Isn’t the Fix Everyone Says it Is,” via The Atlantic Cities:

…if you make it easier and cheaper and faster for people to drive, more people drive. It’s Jevons paradox, applied to the city — if you make it more efficient to use a resource, more of that resource will get used.

There’s a fun fallacy at work here. Changing the conditions of traffic flow changes the entire environment of the city. And re-creating conditions across the scope of a city which make one car more productive fail to account for the fact that, in a city, you’re never just dealing with one car. You’re not even dealing with one car many times. You’re dealing with a whole environment of cars, and traffic-light-syncing, while it leads to many single cars having a faster trip, doesn’t account – as a policy – for changes to the whole environment.

I’d also add that you’re not dealing with cars — you’re dealing with drivers.  And drivers have their own peculiar ways of thwarting even the best traffic models.

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