China’s record jam and examining traffic math


In China last August, a massive traffic jam on the
Beijing-Zhangjiakou highway in Huailai, caused by road construction in Beijing,
stretched for dozens of miles and lasted for over ten days. The stretch of
highway has been frequently congested, especially since large coalfields were
discovered in Inner Mongolia.

It prompted the Wall Street Journal to write an
article exploring the advances being made by mathematicians, engineers and
planners in assessing and explaining traffic congestion. Whilst radar and GPS
devices help pinpoint cars and relay traffic data in real time, sophisticated
models can explain maddening phenomena such as phantom jams, when cars slow down
even without congestion. But traffic mathematic’s strides in reducing
congestion are modest, simply because the number of cars often exceeds roadway
capacity.

The article explores a number of different groups
grappling with research on traffic and ‘urban mobility’, and how traffic
engineers are working to mitigate the challenges of ever-increasing traffic.
It’s a thought-provoking read and gives an insight into the challenge of
traffic modelling and planning. Read the article in full on the Wall Street Journal site here



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