Tue, Apr 17, 2018 - Page 8 News List

Smarter approach to traffic needed

By Lee Ker-tsung 李克聰

Severe traffic jams during the long Tomb Sweeping Day holiday this month caused public complaints. As people went home to clean their family’s tombs and then perhaps travel further on the first two days of the holiday, congestion was unavoidable.

On the first day, the Ministry of Transportation and Communications urged people traveling distances less than 50km to avoid highways and to take alternative routes instead.

As usual, highway toll adjustments were adopted, with toll-free hours between midnight and 5am during the holiday period, a 20 percent toll discount during the two weekends prior to the holiday and the implementation of the high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) policy, but with very limited effect.

In addition to a concentration of traffic, what other factors lead to severe congestion, and how can the situation be improved?

First, the ministry should review and improve the precision of its predictions of highway traffic distribution and average driving time during the holiday.

By using big data analysis when estimating traffic volumes, several factors can be taken into account, such as the convenience of driving during the tomb sweeping holiday, weather conditions, the willingness of those who did not travel during the Lunar New Year’s holiday because of the Feb. 6 Hualien earthquake to travel during this holiday instead, as well as the customary family trip on Children’s Day.

If the estimate of when and where congestion will occur is inaccurate, preventative measures will not yield the anticipated effect, but rather achieve the opposite.

Examples can be found in the long traffic jams on the Chiang Wei-shui Memorial Freeway (Freeway No. 5) on the first day of the spring holiday: To make the best use of the toll-free period between midnight and 5am and avoid the HOV restriction starting at 7am, too many people embarked on their trips earlier than usual, so congestion started at 4am.

The traffic jams continued and the freeway was severely congested all day. The traffic exiting from Suao Interchange 5 was so heavy that the Suao-Hualien alternative route and the Suao-Hualien Highway were also severely congested all day.

The review and analysis of ways to improve the severe traffic congestion during holidays only includes reducing and rerouting traffic. Traffic reduction strategies require raising the appeal of alternative public transportation.

In addition to giving public transportation vehicles right of way, the government should also improve real-time bus information systems to help the public find seamless transfer transportation to their destination.

It should also provide an integrated ticketing platform and offer package discounts, and public transportation companies should increase dispatching frequencies to avoid overcrowding and deteriorating service quality. Big data analysis should be used to provide accurate traffic information to travelers, issue announcements and alerts, and implement controls as needed.

One week before a holiday, the public should be able to enter the origin and destination of their trip to find information on when and along what routes to drive, or whether use public transportation, so that they can plan their trip.

The day before the trip, users should be able to check updated traffic forecasts, so that people who plan to drive can adjust their departure time or route accordingly.

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