Queue jumping or zipper merge

Kenny Bellew complains about Late Merging on the highway

From one point of view this is simply cheating or queue jumping. From another, this is an efficient use of highway space.

Imagine we have a scenario where 2 lanes merge into 1 (i.e. left lane closed ahead, merge right, or vice versa). What privileges the drivers of either lane to have first dibs on the scarce road space downstream.

Further, if the drivers can move through the queue at the same rate (vehicles per hour) independent of where the merge occurs, why should the queue be longer rather than wider?

If in fact the queue is longer, it may create more unsafe driving conditions (differential speeds in the two lanes), and block exit ramps, thereby delaying people who are using the road but want to exit upstream of the bottleneck.

I suspect a zipper merge (one from each lane) is more efficient, and what we need to do is to retrain drivers to take turns when merging into a queue, rather than play games as is common now about trying to jump queues, or not letting cheaters in.

In fact, this is MnDOT's current preferred strategy Motorists reminded to use zipper method to merge during single-lane traffic on Highway 61 bridge at Hastings

David Levinson

Network Reliability in Practice

Evolving Transportation Networks

Place and Plexus

The Transportation Experience

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Assessing the Benefits and Costs of Intelligent Transportation Systems

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This page contains a single entry by David Levinson published on July 12, 2008 9:09 AM.

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