Information Might Be Key to Reducing Congestion

Driving simulator at Morgan StateCircling the block, hunting for the elusive parking space, contributes hugely to urban congestion. If drivers had information about open spaces, would that reduce traffic congestion, and if so, what's the best way to give them that information?

To answer those questions, researchers at Morgan State University and Virginia Tech have created a simulated version of Washington, D.C.'s Chinatown neighborhood, which has 1,300 metered spaces and 30 loading zones, in Morgan State's driving simulator lab. There, they can study driver's reactions to parking information. Then, real-world drivers will get parking information while driving on Virginia Tech's smart road, and their reactions to it will be compared to those of drivers in the simulator.

Dr. Celeste Chavis and Dr. Mansoureh Jeihani of Morgan State and Dr. Hesham Rakha of Virginia Tech are the principal investigators for the research, "Quantifying the Impact of On-Street Parking Information on Congestion Mitigation," which is funded through MATS UTC.Chinatown in Washington, D.C.

Information about parking spaces will be provided to drivers through on-street signage and their smartphones. The research only addresses parking availability, not pricing.

"We will put parking information into the driving environment and look at how driving behavior changes with the information," Dr. Jeihani says. "We will look at different ways of giving them the information and see which is the most effective."

"And which is the safest," Dr. Chavis adds.

The research, which is just beginning, is expected to take about 15 months to complete.