Cash Prizes Relieve Traffic Congestion
It's hard for people to get ready and drive to work a few minutes earlier than needed, even if it means a faster commute. But what if they had the chance to earn a $50 bonus for holding back on the snooze button? At Stanford University, a professor who researches traffic designed an incentives program to get people to commute at off-peak hours, relieving campus congestion. It's worked so well, the university plans to expand it to parking, the New York Times reported. Singapore will adopt the system in July.
"Carrots, as opposed to sticks, frequently work very well," Pravin Varaiya, a transportation expert at the University of California at Berkeley, told the New York Times.
The Stanford program enters participants into a daily lottery in which they could win a bonus of up to $50 on their paychecks if they drive in at off-peak times. Its creator, Balaji Prabhakar, also studies the efficient design of computer networks.
People generally like prizes better than fees for using high-traffic roadways during peak times, such as the fees imposed in London, Singapore and Stockholm. And just 10 percent of drivers need to join an incentive program to lighten traffic for everyone, according to Prabhakar. In the future, GPS and other locating devices in people's cellphones may make it easy for cities to check on when people drive and reward them accordingly.
In the carrot-versus-sticks debate, however, many experts the Times interviewed predicted that a combination would work best. So drivers in cities around the world should prepare for a mix of fines, fees, discounts and lotteries designed to get them to change their behavior and relieve gridlock for everyone.
Source: New York Times