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What If You Could Reserve Your Daily Commute Like a Table at a Restaurant?
Eric Jaffe / The Atlantic Cities / June 26, 2013
Mull this one over next you’re stuck in traffic on your way into or out of work.
What if instead of leaving your house and chancing the congestion on your rush-hour commute, you could reserve a space on the road just like you reserve a table at a restaurant? Then you’d simply drive to the highway or major intersection at the appropriate time, announce via technology that you’re here, pay a market fee (just as you pay your check after eating), then enjoy a smooth ride. Sure, you’d lose one more excuse for being late to the office — but a considerably miserable part of your day would feel considerably less miserable.
The concept may seem too theoretical to entertain. But as transport scholar David Levinson points out at his Transportationist blog, it’s not so wild that we needn’t bother discussing it. In fact, the systems researchers Matteo Vasirani and Sascha Ossowski of University Rey Juan Carlos in Madrid have made road reservations the subject of a lot of recent study.
When you break it down into little pieces, the idea stops feeling so far-fetched. The technology already exists: intelligent infrastructure that can communicate via digital networks, in-car navigation systems, payment transponders like EZ-Pass. As our Emily Badger has explained, systems researchers are already planning the day when “intersection managers” direct traffic with ultimate efficiency. Vasirani and Ossowski have simply added the element of road pricing into the mix.
The researchers set their hypothetical sights on a reservation system in metropolitan Madrid. The big dots circled in red on this map of the city are where commuters could reserve space on the urban road network: