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Individual Selfish Actions Can Affect Entire Cities

In an article on roads and urban travel, Linda Baker uses Braess’s paradox to discuss a counterintuitive result to a major transportation change in Seoul. She reports that the replacement of a six-lane highway with a five-mile-long park actually improved the city’s flow of traffic. Most people, including many traffic engineers, would think that a decrease in roads, given no change in vehicles, would only lead to more traffic congestion.

In a similar example, Baker relates the traffic phenomenon in Seoul to the “shared streets” of northern Europe. These are roads in which all street markings, traffic lights, and boundaries between the side walk and the street have been removed for the intent of increased driver responsibility. She explains that there are currently similar projects in the United States that have taunted the comfort of drivers and forced them to drive with more caution.

This is intriguing considering recent lecture topics because the article discusses how peoples selfish driving habits can affect the overall transportation ‘payoff’  of an entire city. As discussed in class, through the use of hypothetical highway networks and the application of Nash equilibrium, no single driver can receive higher pay off by changing their strategy alone. Closing roads can make it more difficult for drivers to conduct these selfish decisions and can guide traffic to a more optimal equilibrium.

http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=removing-roads-and-traffic-lights

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