What is the long-term solution to traffic problems? We can’t keep building more lanes — that’s hardly a long-term solution.

And although adding lanes increases capacity and makes the roadway more attractive, this attractiveness also brings back all those people who were avoiding it. There goes a good part of the added capacity.

At the risk of oversimplification, we need sustainable ways to transport large groups of people and we need to spread out the traffic.

Or, as my uncle would say, “Lorem ipsum.”

This past year has shown solutions do exist. The events of 2020 accelerated developments that otherwise would have taken years. Online meetings and working from home are suddenly accepted. Some employers offer flexible working hours to reduce rush hour traffic. Not everyone has to be in the office at the same time.

In 2020, we were forced to address the reason for the trip and reduce trips accordingly. This trend needs to continue.

And acknowledging that “space” for mobility is limited, how can the space be best distributed? Cars, trucks, delivery vehicles, cyclists and pedestrians all require space.

Even self-driving cars need space. They do, however, provide some relief. They have the ability to link up with adjacent self-driving vehicles forming a type of car train — following one another with just a few feet between them. They can also prevent accidents and take over parts of the journey allowing you to do something else — especially if you are stuck in traffic.

Self-driving cars also learn how traffic signals behave, are aware of traffic conditions, and choose the best route to get to your destination. Or, in my experience, it may even suggest an alternate destination.

Last Thursday, for example, I thought I was supposed to go to work, but I guess I was actually supposed to go bowling.

In most areas, roadway capacity is only a problem for a few hours in the morning and a few hours in the evening. So, how can we spread out the traffic?

Well, it’s a lot cheaper than building new roads or adding lanes.

As mentioned above, employers can offer flexible working hours. Personally, simply choosing to shop and travel during “off-peak” hours.

Repeat after me, “Lorem ipsum.”

Chet Skwarcan is president of Traffic Engineering, Inc. in Danville. He is an Indiana traffic engineer with more than 30 years of experience solving traffic problems statewide.

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