While two-way streets may be more attractive for their livability, ease of navigation, safety, and economics, the conventional wisdom is that one-way streets are better for traffic flow. However in a recent paper published in the Transportation Research Record, Vikash Gayah, a civil engineer at Penn State University, makes the case that two-way streets can also improve congestion.
"The typical metric of traffic is vehicle flow — which amounts, more or less, to standing on the corner and counting how many cars go by," explains Jaffe. "Flow is high on one-way streets because there's little reason for cars to slow down. But flow doesn't take into account the fact that traveling through one-way street systems often means taking a circuitous route, which adds distance to every trip."
"You can move more vehicles through a roadway, but if they have to travel a longer distance, in the end, you have actually fewer people being able to get to their destination and get off the road," says Gayah.
"So [based on Gayah's theories] cities looking to improve trip capacity in downtown areas have some options," suggests Jaffe. "Smaller cities, with shorter average trip lengths, should be able to reduce congestion by converting one-way streets into two-way streets (with a couple options for left turns). Larger cities, with longer trip distances, should consider a shift to two-way systems that ban left turns entirely."
Thanks to Erica Gutierrez