Gridlock Game Great for Geeks, Short on Complete Streets

<p> Move over XBox; step aside Playstation.  The height of game-playing action is free and it&#39;s online.  The <a href="">new game in town</a> is University of Minnesota, Intelligent Transportation Systems Institute&#39;s &quot;<em>Gridlock Buster</em>&quot;.  Test your mettle on the increasing levels of difficulty in processing vehicular traffic through a network of intersections.

July 24, 2009, 12:46 PM PDT

By Ian Sacs

Move over XBox; step aside Playstation.  The height of game-playing action is free and it's online.  The new game in town is University of Minnesota, Intelligent Transportation Systems Institute's "Gridlock Buster".  Test your mettle on the increasing levels of difficulty in processing vehicular traffic through a network of intersections.  As you begin at the bottom rungs of a city traffic department, you're encouraged and coached by a senior traffic group member to take on more challenging conditions as you climb the bureaucratic ladder.  If on your watch honking cars max out the so-called frustration meter, you lose your tenure in the city's traffic group and it's back to the mailroom for you.  Manage the downtown grid's peak traffic successfully and, eh, well, I didn't exactly get that far.  As a matter of fact, my home's proverbial Mayor (that's my wife) was not happy with all the horn honking resulting from my mediocre efforts, and I was forced to submit my resignation (I did try to appeal to her that it should be expected for communities to have a negative initial reaction to changes in signal timings, but she wasn't willing to put up with the grumblings).  But look, every public meeting I attend at least one person insists I don't understand their traffic as well as they do (which is usually true), so why shouldn't it be true in Gridlock Buster's fictional Metro too?

Note the mute is on since The Mayor insisted I get a handle on the racket!

Regardless, this game is sure to pique the traffic engineering geek in you and offers a chance at aspiring to the dubious rank of the new Gridlock Demagogue.  At the very least, you may come to realize via this game that the modern solution to solving congestion hasn't much to do with answering old-school gridlock gripes.  Instead, I have to agree with Sarah Goodyear in her Streetsblog post today that, despite the subtle implications here that there's more to solving congestion than merely futzing with signals, all the modern-day progressive solutions to solving urban congestion are regrettably absent from Gridlock Buster.  I was hoping to get the chance to insert a bike lane, assign a Bus Rapid Transit corridor, prescribe a road diet, or maybe even introduce a roundabout.  And what about the advanced levels including pedestrian crossings?  Search the web as I might, I just couldn't find any of the following cheat codes: BKLANE, BRT, TRFFCLMNG, RNDABT, MXDUSE, PEDPRORTY.  Despite these shortcomings, Gridlock Buster is a fun diversion and a great way to introduce younger engineers to the basics of network traffic management.  Perhaps Version 2.0 of UMITSI's Gridlock Buster will include transportation demand measures as "assessment options" after each level.  In the meantime, try to keep your frustration meter level down low this weekend, and fulfill your lifelong dream at being a traffic engineer!

Ian Sacs

Ian Sacs has been playing in traffic for over ten years. He solves challenging urban transportation and parking problems by making the best possible use of precious public spaces and designing custom-fit programs to distribute modal demand.

Los Angeles, California

The End of Single-Family Zoning in California

Despite a few high-profile failures, the California State Legislature has approved a steady drumbeat of pro-development reforms that loosen zoning restrictions. The state raised the stakes on its zoning reforms this week.

September 19, 2021 - Office of Governor Gavin Newsom

The city of Siena in Italy, located on a hillside and bathed in Tuscan sunlight.

Building on Jacobs: The City Emergent; Beyond Streets and Buildings

A science of cities reveals the way cities grow, and why.

September 20, 2021 - Fanis Grammenos

Rendering of St. John redevelopment site

Austin 'Right to Return' Policy Implemented for the First Time

A North Austin development will be the first approved under the city's new Right to Stay and Right to Return policies, aimed at preventing displacement in gentrifying neighborhoods.

September 16, 2021 - Next City

New Updates on The Edge

HUD's Office of Policy Development and Research

New Case Study Posted on HUD User

HUD's Office of Policy Development and Research

Urban Design for Planners 1: Software Tools

This six-course series explores essential urban design concepts using open source software and equips planners with the tools they need to participate fully in the urban design process.

Hand Drawing Master Plans

This course aims to provide an introduction into Urban Design Sketching focused on how to hand draw master plans using a mix of colored markers.