Flickr/Wonderlane

A new study suggests that traffic reduction should be targeted at particular communities.

Researchers from UC Berkeley and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have found that when it comes to traffic, some drivers are making you later than others.

How much later? The central finding of the the paper, published today in Scientific Reports, is that while keeping one percent of all drivers off the road cuts traffic congestion by three percent, eliminating the same number of drivers from particular neighborhoods can reduce travel time for everyone else by a whopping 18 percent.

"This is a preliminary study that demonstrates that not all drivers are contributing uniformly to congestion," Alexandre Bayen, a Berkeley professor and coauthor, said in a statement. “Reaching out to everybody to change their time or mode of commute is thus not necessarily as efficient as reaching out to those in a particular geographic area who contribute most to bottlenecks.”

In the San Francisco area, if the drivers kept off the road came from Dublin, Hayward, San Jose, San Rafael and parts of San Ramon, remaining commuters would find their travel time down 14 percent.

The methodology may be as important as the findings. Rather than costly and labor-intensive travel surveys, researchers used a blend of cell tower and GPS data to chart times and speeds, which, combined with population density statistics and road maps, helped them draw their conclusions.

Lead researcher Marta Gonzalez, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at MIT, believes their work could be easily replicated by cities in the developing world to pinpoint the sources of congestion.

Top image: Flickr user Wonderlane.

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. photo: a pair of homes in Pittsburgh
    Equity

    The House Flippers of Pittsburgh Try a New Tactic

    As the city’s real estate market heats up, neighborhood groups say that cash investors use building code violations to encourage homeowners to sell.  

  2. Life

    The Cities Americans Want to Flee, and Where They Want to Go

    An Apartment List report reveals the cities apartment-hunters are targeting for their next move—and shows that tales of a California exodus may be overstated.

  3. photo: A woman crosses an overpass above the 101 freeway in Los Angeles, California.
    Transportation

    Navigation Apps Changed the Politics of Traffic

    In an excerpt from the new book The Future of Transportation, CityLab’s Laura Bliss adds up the “price of anarchy” when it comes to traffic navigation apps.

  4. photo: San Francisco skyline
    Equity

    Would Capping Office Space Ease San Francisco’s Housing Crunch?

    Proposition E would put a moratorium on new commercial real estate if affordable housing goals aren’t met. But critics aren’t convinced it would be effective.   

  5. photo: subway in NYC
    Transportation

    Inside Bloomberg's $1 Trillion Infrastructure Plan

    Drawing on his time as New York City mayor, Michael Bloomberg proposes handing power and money to urban leaders as part of his Democratic presidential bid.

×