Learning to Love Your Traffic Engineer ? Social Scientist

Cranbury CarletonNew Jersey traffic engineers don?t see suburbs, destroy downtowns with arterials and have refused to adopt road designs for neighborhoods. How will we learn to love them?

We have to understand that traffic engineers love solving problems, just not social problems. They?ll design how to move cars through an intersection, but not how to preserve or create a downtown, increase property values or reduce pollution ? yet the intersection design can affect all these other goals, positively or negatively.

Although we?ve been building roads for millennia, we?re just realizing how motor vehicle traffic affects society. Using a computer analogy, traffic engineering is moving from the green screen to the graphical user interface ? people want a richer experience, including multiple ways to get where we?re going.

Traffic engineers must learn to see themselves as social scientists, concerned with how people in addition to motorists interact with the roadways ? residents, runners, dog-walkers, cyclists, etc.

People are puzzling ? we love our cars, but hate traffic ? how can engineers solve the dilemma? Find out in the next installment of Learning to Love Your Traffic Engineer ? What the Public Wants.

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2 Responses to “Learning to Love Your Traffic Engineer ? Social Scientist”

  1. Jerry says:

    We of course would like politicians to become educated re biking and walking, and we might make the argument that engineers aren’t good social scientists. Instead, the point is that they are already social scientists, because of the people driving the vehicles, and their behavior while driving, interacting with the roadway and roadside environment. Back to computer analogies, traffic engineers are more like user interface software engineers, compared to structural engineers and database software engineers, who are not as immediately concerned with human behavior interacting with their creations.

    Practically speaking, we as citizen advocates have a couple of choices in strategy – just demand what we intuitively know is right, and be lumped with all the other citizen activists with their widely varying ideas, or just demand that our traffic engineers follow the best practices of their own profession. Which do you think will be most effective?

  2. Looking forward to the next installment! When elected officials tell traffic engineers to build a livable, walkable environment, traffic engineers will build it. I don’t necessarily think that traffic engineers ‘need to become social scientists’. It’s not their job to interpret what the public wants- that’s what we have politicians for! The responsibility lies with us to let those in authority know that this is a priority.

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