Closing Roads Can Actually Speed Up Traffic

Closing Roads Can Actually Speed Up Traffic

Can improving something actually just make it worse? It seems nonsensical to think this could be true, but it's the basic premise of the counterintuitive Braess paradox. The Braess paradox (which isn't technically a paradox, but more of a counter-intuitive finding) states that adding an additional road to a congested area of traffic will actually make time spent in traffic longer for the drivers. It is also used as an explanation for why closing a road can sometimes speed up traffic. The finding was formulated in 1968 by Dietrich Braess. Even though adding a road to decongest heavy traffic areas seems logical, it actually proves to add time to an individual's travel.

The Braess Paradox: How Closing Roads Can Speed Up Traffic

Hear the mathematical reasoning behind this seemingly counterintuitive truth.

07:18

Key Facts In This Video

  • 1

    The Braess paradox is a counterintuitive phenomenon stating that closing roads can actually speed up traffic. (0:01)

  • 2

    In physics, the Braess paradox can affect how far a set of springs stretches under a constant force. (6:18)

  • 3

    The Braess paradox is used in basketball to explain the Ewing paradox. (6:37)

The Science of Traffic Jams

If it's not road closures, then what?

02:09

Key Facts In This Video

  • 1

    In New York City and Los Angeles, commuters spend up to three weeks per year stuck in traffic. (0:18)

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    The real culprit of traffic jams is the sudden fluctuation in driving speed. (0:32)

  • 3

    Traffic jams can be prevented with wider lanes and better-synchronized traffic signals. (1:24)

Get To Know The "Traffic Circle of Hell"

This roundabout, made of seven traffic circles, has been working for more than 60 years.

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