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.

The Road Less Travelled

When travelling recently, I encountered a sign stating, “Lane Closed to Ease Congestion.” At first glance, the sign made no sense. My second glance however, lasting about twenty minutes, afforded a different conclusion…

By now, as a burgeoning student of the traffic engineering sciences (and Robert Frost), you know where this is headed. You know that closing roads (or lanes) diverts a certain percentage of traffic to alternate routes. And you know that a certain percentage of those drivers forever continue to use that alternate route because, 1) they actually prefer the new found route, or 2) they have no idea the road reopened.

As alluded to in previous columns, we are creatures of habit — we tend to drive the same route every day (stop doing that!). The familiar is the comfortable (we love comfort). That’s why I use the Waze app. It’s like a Magic 8-Ball. I can shake it (figuratively) and get a different route whenever I sense I’m succumbing to the comfortable (SttU). And it often recommends routes making no sense. And they make even less sense when I end up in the middle of a farm field 100 miles from my destination. But that’s OK because I discover new roads while experiencing minimal congestion. Plus, by then I usually can’t remember where I was going anyway, so who cares?

Remember, autonomous cars and “connected vehicles” will resolve our traffic woes, but in the meantime, take the road less travelled. And as someone wiser than me once said, “I’m wiser than you!”

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