Friday, August 27, 2010

The Worst Traffic Jam Ever -- 10 Days and 60 Miles!

I am getting ready to teach two courses this Fall, including my Transportation & Logistics course, to which I always bring material and news items from the real-world.

Just in time for my first class, is the news, as both The Guardian and The New York Times report, of what is being reported as the worst traffic jam ever, which occurred on a highway west of Beijing, which is part of the Beijing-Tibet highway, and lasted 10 days and 60 miles! The drivers behaved quite well during this logjam and you can view some of the photos of the gridlock here.

One of the reasons for this surreal traffic jam was that construction had started on this major thoroughfare, thus reducing its capacity. Plus, this is a major highway for the transportation not only of passenger vehicles but also of trucks carrying freight and especially coal.

Room for Debate in The New York Times has interesting takes on this mega traffic jam, with one debater stating that such a monumental traffic jam would never happen in the US. Interestingly, as well, many of the truck drivers in order to avoid tolls (and being weighed) would rather choose a longer route, as happened in this case, in China. Tolls in which there is the money vs. time issue is another topic that I will be teaching in my course.

In our Fragile Networks book we discuss how the transportation network design and the reduction of capacity can affect traffic flows, both major issues in the worst traffic jam ever. Also, we quantify the effects of enhancements of network capacity, such as the increase in road capacity. Clearly, to have effective transportation and logistics systems, one must construct the appropriate critical infrastructure, in the form of roads, bridges, and even rails, sea and air routes, to support the flows!

The subject of Transportation & Logistics is always fascinating!