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A New, Flexible System for Congestion Pricing

Researchers at MIT have developed a new, flexible congestion pricing system.
September 25, 2014, 10am PDT | Maayan Dembo | @DJ_Mayjahn
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As reported by Jordan Golson from Wired, the new system was developed for Singapore by graduate student Jason Gao and his advisor Li-Shiuan Peh from MIT, and is titled "RoadRunner." Unlike traditional systems forcing a toll on drivers, via cameras, sensors, or tollbooths, RoadRunner, "issues a digital 'token' to each car entering a congestion-prone area. Once a given number of tokens are assigned, a car can’t enter unless another vehicle leaves. Everyone else gets turn-by-turn directions to avoid the area. In computer simulations using data from Singapore’s Land Transit Authority, Gao and Peh saw an 8 percent increase in average car speed during periods of peak congestion. They also did a small scale test in Cambridge, Mass. to prove the technology works."

The advantage of this system allows for more dynamic and adaptable pricing based on special events within a specific geography. Urban planners can simply draw a polygon on the map and decide to manipulate the congestion zones in real time. Moreover, these changes can occur without any new construction of infrastructure. In addition, drivers are not penalized for entering these zones, but rather are aided in avoiding them altogether if possible.

Gao and Peh's research was honored at the Intelligent Transportation Systems World Congress last week, and will hopefully be implemented in field trials shortly.

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Published on Wednesday, September 17, 2014 in Wired
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