Everybody hates commuting, mostly because sitting in a steel box listening to podcasts while drinking mass-produced coffee is about the last thing anybody wants to do at 7am.
We’ve been blaming other drivers for years, and now, MIT has proven that you’re actually right. Every morning, a handful of jerks do exactly the wrong thing and trigger a massive domino reaction that screws it up for everybody else.
MIT researchers anonymously tracked drivers by following their cellphone signals across the Boston area. As drivers made calls, took texts, and did other things they shouldn’t actually being doing in a car, the MIT team tracked nearly a million drivers. They found that it wasn’t Boston’s allegedly awful roads or the complete inability of tourists to just stop whining and buy a GPS holding everybody up; it was traffic congestion on a few crucial roads:
The backups on these roads ripple outward, causing traffic to snarl across the Hub. By tracking the cell records, they found that it's just a small number of drivers from a small number of neighborhoods who are responsible for tying up the key roads.
Specifically, they identified 15 census tracts (out of the 750 in Greater Boston) located in Everett, Marlborough, Lawrence, Lowell, and Waltham as the heart of the problem, because drivers from those areas make particularly intensive use of the problematic roads in the system.
If you’ve ever been to these towns, the fact that they’re a source of waste and relentless misery is about the least shocking thing you’ll read today.
MIT suggests that carpooling, better public transit, and community awareness will help, which is sensible and intelligent and also utterly adorable in how naive it is. No, guys, these people are going to keep using these roads until we thin the herd. Fortunately, Click and Clack are already building a Wicker Car to sacrifice a few unruly drivers to the traffic gods, so we should be good.
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