Traffic jams add more than time to your commute. They also add pollution to the atmosphere.

Vehicles pollute more when they are accelerating or carrying a heavy load. Frequent stops and starts are one of the worst causes of air pollution and emissions of carbon dioxide.

But city planners can design traffic patterns to maximize flow and environmental benefits.

TAYLOR: “If we minimize vehicle delay, we are also minimizing the amount of pollutants that are emitted into the atmosphere.”

That’s Mark Taylor of the Utah Department of Transportation. His team developed software to monitor traffic conditions. They use the information to change the timing of stoplights so that more vehicles reach intersections when the light is green.

Reducing traffic delays by one hundred vehicle hours per day cuts carbon emissions by about a ton a year. So improving signal timing can make a difference.

In addition to reducing emissions, smoother traffic flow means quicker commutes and less fuel burned because less time is spent in gridlock. Utah is sharing the software with other states, so perhaps your commute will be just a little easier in the future.

Reporting credit: ChavoBart Digital Media.
Photo: Copyright protected.

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Julia Kumari Drapkin

Julia Kumari Drapkin founded ISeeChange after a decade of reporting natural disasters and climate change across the globe and in her own backyard on the Gulf Coast. She is the founder of ISeeChange, a...