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Today’s dumb traffic (if it happens) will be the sum of all the individual choices of people who choose to drive today. Of course it will happen, and the traffic is going to continue to be bad and get worse until more people make a choice to be a driver less of the time, becoming ‘choice-passengers’ (in cars, vans, buses, or trains) more of the time. This post explores the idea that improving the ‘deal’ for choice-passengers could reduce the traffic.

The predictable traffic jam or ‘dumb mobility’ is the bane of many commuters’ existence: a day-in day-out drudgery that can create health problems and spoil the moods of thousands every day. Why do people put up with bad traffic? Where does it come from, and where is it going? The purpose of this article is to encourage a discussion about this question. Is it all about people?

Predictable traffic jams or ‘dumb mobility’ defy efforts to improve regional transportation. Smart mobility solutions help people get around congestion, but then the congestion spreads and those solutions stop working. This article questions whether the traditional engineering approach to solving for congestion fits with the nature of the problem. It suggests that the nature of the problem may be complex, while the traditional approach treats it as complicated. This may appear to be semantics, but the difference could explain why congestion grows unabated in spite of massive investment to reverse it.

Predictable traffic jams or ‘dumb mobility’ is hampering progress towards a better mobility, and will only be reduced when people take greater collective responsibility for mobility outcomes. This article considers whether the road network is a ‘commons’, and if so if dumb mobility represents a ‘tragedy’ of the commons. It suggests that the ‘commons model’ may be a useful framework for thinking about the challenge of getting people to take greater collective responsibility for mobility outcomes.


Urban Mobility

How are we moving people from point A to point B?
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Is too much faith being put in smart mobility apps to create the mobility of the future? Is something more or different needed to resolve the core issues of the present? What will it take for people to stop making individually rational, but collectively irrational mobility choices? This first in a series of articles suggests better mobility is possible, but requires travelers to take more responsibility for collective mobility outcomes.