Study: Shaving time off drivers’ commutes is simple

One map of the San Francisco Bay area that researchers used to show traffic patterns. (Courtesy

Max Smith,

WASHINGTON – Shaving time off most drivers’ commutes could be as simple as getting a specific, small group of drivers off the road.

A study in Scientific Reports looking at Boston and San Francisco, finds that in each city, drivers from just a few specific neighborhoods contributed the most to bottlenecks that slowed drivers across the area.

By taking as few as one in 100 drivers from those key areas off the roads, commute times could drop by more than 15 percent for the region, researchers say. That would shave off about ten minutes each way for people whose commutes are currently an hour.

The researchers used anonymized cell phone data along with GPS data to reach their conclusions.

Boston and San Francisco have very different highway configurations, leading the researchers to suggest the pattern is likely to apply elsewhere.

Knowing which neighborhoods contribute the most to traffic congestion could help local leaders figure out who should get more encouragement to carpool, telework, or work closer to home.

In addition to cutting down on drivers’ commuting time, the researchers point out changes could save money and improve air quality.

The Texas Transportation Institute says that in 2010, congestion cost D.C. area commuters around $1,500, including wasted gas and time.

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(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)

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