Would you stop using your car? Do you know that by increasing the road capacity to reduce traffic jams would make the situation worse? This is an interesting story about a practical application of the “Braess Paradox”.
2009, The Netherlands. Some inhabitants of one Rotterdam’s neighbourhood receive a strange email: they have been watched while driving and are asked to stop. Is it a threat, blackmail, or phishing?
Absolutely not! The message comes for Rotterdam City Hall and the highway company that are allied to reduce traffic jams that have been polluting the cities day after day.
Wouldn’t it be easier to build bigger highways or built new ones?
Here comes the “Braess Paradox” . According to this theory, increasing the road capacity to reduce traffic jams would make the situation worse.
Actually, with a new road, people who had given up to the car before, would go back and use their car again. Moreover, those who were avoiding using the car during rush hours would drive again.
On the other hand, by eliminating roads, the journey time can be reduced, because some motorists will be inclined to stop using their car. This is the paradox.
Rotterdam City Hall tried also another thing: the positive toll, also known as the reverse toll.
What is it? If the citizens leave the car into their garage during rush hours, they will receive a small amount of money. Of course, they will receive also a device to control if they indeed have left the car into their garage.
It worked! In a couple of years, the volunteers who joined the programme and applied to that scheme increased, and traffic jams decreased. Also when people did not receive the money any longer, they kept up with their good habit.
The Netherlands is always far ahead of other European countries with their pollution reduction policies. In Amsterdam, when crossing the street, you have to be careful of bikes not cars!
I stopped using my car in Brussels because I found it was faster by subway than by car!
Would you stop using your car in exchange of some money? Or simply because you would do some good to the planet?
This is an edited version of an article published earlier on my blog crisbiecoach.