Chet Skwarcan is an award-winning engineer, writer, and industry innovator in the field of traffic engineering. He is known for leveraging his creativity, logic, and technology to solve today’s engineering challenges.

New Element Discovered: Traffic (Tr)

Why does this not surprise me? Granted, the recently discovered element, Traffic (Tr), has nothing to do with traffic, but one look at the periodic table and I think I see a few places where it could fit. But instead, it’s referred to as an element of confusion. So why is “traffic” often considered confusing, bothersome, distasteful, or unwelcome? Or is it? Or is it not? Or, better yet, where was I headed with all this? Anyway…

Traffic is something we take for granted. We need traffic — we are communal creatures! For example, imagine driving down an isolated road at night with no other cars in sight. That’s right, zero traffic. You’re all alone — woods all around. And then, through the darkness, you see something that looks like a large cat — something the size of a small horse. And as you look, it turns towards you and has a human face. You could possibly drive off the road! So be thankful for the traffic that surrounds you and protects you (and by the way, what was that thing?).

And as traffic patterns settle down (i.e., the new normal), it confirms what traffic engineers have always known: “Where you have a lot of cars, you have a lot of traffic.” That’s why when we evaluate proposed developments we pay a lot of attention to historical traffic volumes in the surrounding area. We also analyze historical patterns in the area. The patterns provide clues on how new traffic will access the proposed development. And this my friend, tells us some other stuff that I can’t remember right now off the top of my head. But, right after all that, we review existing developments of the same size and type. And this gives us confidence in projecting how much traffic new developments actually add to the surrounding roadways. We then cross-reference this information with the Periodic Table to determine where we need to add turn lanes, roundabouts, signals, or adjust speed limits. Note: we maintain our own version of the Periodic Table.

Chet Skwarcan (traffic engineer, author, unique insights) with over 25 years of traffic engineering experience — online help available at