Tag Archives: crowd-behaviour

How Congestion Pricing and Traffic Jams Help the Environment

When us lay­men think of ways to solve traffic con­ges­tion we typ­ic­ally think of two ways: con­ges­tion pri­cing to force those who are most price sens­it­ive off the roads and on to pub­lic trans­port (which should be improved using the funds gained through said pri­cing), and adding capa­city to the roads. But do these solu­tions really help: do con­ges­tion charges and addi­tion­al capa­city really affect over­all driv­ing habits and are they bene­fi­cial for the envir­on­ment (do they increase pub­lic trans­port use)?

Traffic jams can actu­ally be envir­on­ment­ally bene­fi­cial if they turn sub­ways, buses, car pools, bicycles and walk­ing into more-attract­ive options. […] The tra­di­tion­al solu­tion to traffic con­ges­tion is to cre­ate addi­tion­al road capa­city. But pro­jects like those almost always end up mak­ing the ori­gin­al prob­lem worse because they gen­er­ate what trans­port­a­tion plan­ners call “induced traffic”: every mile of new, open road­way encour­ages exist­ing users to make more car trips, lures drivers away from oth­er routes and tempts trans­it riders to return to their auto­mo­biles, with the even­tu­al res­ult that the new roads become at least as clogged as the old roads. […]

In 1999, the Aus­trali­an research­ers Peter New­man and Jeff Ken­worthy con­cluded that “there is no guar­an­tee that con­ges­tion pri­cing will sim­ul­tan­eously improve con­ges­tion and sus­tain­ab­il­ity,” and men­tioned sev­er­al ways in which con­ges­tion pri­cing can defy the expect­a­tions of its sup­port­ers, among them by caus­ing motor­ists to “drive exactly as they always have if the con­ges­tion charge is covered by their firms (e.g., a major­ity of London’s peak-hour com­muters have com­pany cars and perks).”

Some have inter­preted Dav­id Owen’s column to be anti-con­ges­tion char­ging: I don’t believe he sug­gests this, primar­ily because of his final para­graph, describ­ing what he believes is the most effect­ive con­ges­tion man­age­ment pro­gram:

A truly effect­ive traffic pro­gram for any dense city would impose high fees for all auto­mobile access and pub­lic park­ing while also gradu­ally elim­in­at­ing auto­mobile lanes (thereby redu­cing total car traffic volume without elim­in­at­ing the envir­on­ment­ally bene­fi­cial bur­den of driver frus­tra­tion and inef­fi­ciency) and increas­ing the capa­city and effi­ciency of pub­lic trans­it.

It isn’t the solu­tion; it’s part of the solu­tion.

A Brief Summary of Group Psychology

If, like me, you’re even remotely inter­ested in the dynam­ics of group psy­cho­logy you’ve prob­ably already read a couple of these. Non­ethe­less, these 10 psy­cho­logy stud­ies high­lighted as ‘rules’ gov­ern­ing groups are worth not­ing:

  1. Groups can arise from almost noth­ing
  2. Ini­ti­ation rites improve group eval­u­ations
  3. Groups breed con­form­ity
  4. Learn the ropes or be ostra­cised
  5. You become your job
  6. Lead­ers gain trust by con­form­ing
  7. Groups can improve per­form­ance…
  8. …but people will loaf
  9. [Rumours are] 80% accur­ate
  10. Groups breed com­pet­i­tion

via Mind Hacks

Traffic Psychology and The Commuters Paradox

There aren’t many people, I believe, who are able to drive and who are not inter­ested in traffic dynam­ics. Jonah Lehr­er, in a recent column for Seed, takes a brief look at traffic psy­cho­logy; includ­ing ‘the com­muters para­dox’ and the ‘crit­ic­al dens­ity’.

They found that, when people are choos­ing where to live, they con­sist­ently under­es­tim­ate the pain of a long com­mute. This leads people to mis­takenly believe that the McMan­sion in the sub­urbs, with its extra bed­room and sprawl­ing lawn, will make them hap­pi­er, even though it might force them to drive an addi­tion­al forty-five minutes to work. It turns out, how­ever, that traffic is tor­ture, and the big house isn’t worth it. Accord­ing to the cal­cu­la­tions of Frey and Stutzer, a per­son with a one-hour com­mute has to earn 40 per­cent more money to be as sat­is­fied with life as someone who walks to the office.

Appar­ently, the reas­on we dis­like com­mutes so much is because “the flow of traffic is inher­ently unpredictable”–once on the roads we are at the mercy of the traffic all around us.

For more inform­a­tion on this top­ic, Wil­li­am Beaty’s Traffic Waves site is full of inter­est­ing the­or­ies and obser­va­tions on traffic ‘phys­ics’. Lehr­er sug­gests Tom Vanderbilt’s Traffic–a book I’ve seen recom­men­ded many times.

Crowd Behaviour

By study­ing the foot­age from an uniden­ti­fied UK city’s CCTV cam­er­as, psy­cho­lo­gist Mark Lev­ine is find­ing that a num­ber of the­or­ies about crowd psy­cho­logy pre­vi­ously taken as gos­pel may be incor­rect, includ­ing the bystand­er effect (some­times referred to as the Kitty Gen­ov­ese effect) and the idea that crowds are inclined to be unruly and viol­ent.

Dr Lev­ine per­suaded the author­it­ies in one Brit­ish city to allow him to look at their CCTV foot­age of alco­hol-fuelled con­flict in pub­lic places. […] He ana­lysed 42 clips of incid­ents that oper­at­ors in a con­trol room had judged had the poten­tial to turn viol­ent, though only 30 of them actu­ally did so. He recor­ded ges­tures he labelled either “escalating”, such as point­ing and prod­ding, or “de-escalating”, such as con­cili­at­ory open-handed­ness. […]

Judging the fight to begin with the aggressor’s first point­ing ges­ture towards his tar­get, the research­ers found that the first inter­ven­tion usu­ally involved a bystand­er try­ing to calm the prot­ag­on­ist down. Next, anoth­er would advise the tar­get not to respond. If a third inter­ven­tion rein­forced crowd solid­ar­ity, send­ing the same peace­ful mes­sage, then a viol­ent out­come became unlikely. But if it did not—if the third bystand­er vocally took sides, say—then viol­ence was much more likely.

via Mind Hacks