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September 15, 2007

Traffic Flow

Flow of traffic, both pedestrian and vehicular on roads, in stores and elsewhere is something that really isn't paid much attention to in many cases. Some recent examples of flow failures I've witnessed. A) Construction blocks many small segments of one lane on a 4 lane road. People are weaving in and out of the lane to dodge the construction, resulting in generally slower overall flow of traffic. B) A buffet style restaurant has two lines that converge into one, the convergence point is such that normal human movement blocks one line from advancing. The lines also block access to the kitchen and other facilities. C) Specific entrance and exit locations, at first this seems like an improvement in flow, but research says, everyone is going to try to leave through the entrance they came in. I find this a major fire hazard besides a flow limiter. D) A government office with many different lines and absolutely nothing telling you you need to walk up to the little machine and hit a button to figure out what line to stand in. E) A modern shopping center parking lot. Vehicle and pedestrian traffic is often routed and bottlenecked to the same point at the front of the store. The parking islands, rows and general design are not linear or consistent and don't suggest any direction for driving.

Some solutions to these problems: A) In hallways walk as though its a highway, stick to the right side (or left depending on location). You'll often see this happen naturally in high schools during class changes. B) Figure out where people are going to and coming from and design accordingly. C) Consider the users and uses when designing, changing and altering facilities that encounter high traffic. D) Monitor usage and problems and readjust. Pretty basic stuff. But its the attention to details that really makes or breaks it.

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