Study shows that taking shortcuts adds on journey time for others

Researchers from the University of Birmingham and Massachusetts Institute of Technology have found that those using shortcuts from main roads and routes during rush hours are actually increasing journey times for others.

A report published by both universities, called “Understanding Congested Travel in Urban Areas“, looked into rush hour traffic across five major cities – Boston, San Francisco, Rio de Janeiro, Lisbon, and Porto. The aim of the research was to look at ways to ease congestion through routing; and found the key to clearing clogged roads was through more socially-aware travel planning.

The research suggests that if drivers could be persuaded to give up their shortcuts, which would on average add 5-8 minutes to their journey times, it would cut the time spent in traffic jams and congestion overall by almost a third – which is a huge amount for most.

To complete the research, set points were chosen in each city and travel between them monitored using mobile phone and road map data. The big finding was “that on average 15-30 per cent of the total minutes lost in congestion is caused solely by selfish routing”. In other words, drivers choosing to take short cuts before rejoining a main carriageway actually create more congestion.

Computer modelling of more socially aware choices of routes (in other words not cutting in and out of traffic), revealed a significant impact on congestion.

But how best to persuade people to add those extra few minutes to their trips? Two of the scientists, Antonio Lima and Marta Gonzalez, have suggested that an App could help incentivise; offering points and vouchers to those willing to take a longer route to avoid congested areas.

Would you take the hit on your trips to help others – or is your time too valuable? Let us know in the comments below!

Author Lex Barber


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