I knew something was up when I was driving home last night. It took me 60 minutes to go 3 miles. In other words, traffic was flowing way slower than normal. I got to the Teddington/Kingston roundabout and noticed that the road going to Teddington had been shut due to emergency roadworks. So most of the traffic that went through Kingston and headed to points north needed to be diverted. In other words: Mayhem! Chaos! Traffic jam!
I doubt you’ve ever been to Kingston so let me describe it for you. Kingston (in the Royal Borough of Kingston upon Thames) is an ancient market town where Saxon kings were crowned and is one of the major metropolitan centers in greater London. Some genius a few years ago decided to turn its main roads into a one-way system. This one-way system is at the heart of the city and you go round and round until you branch off at each major artery to go to points north, south, west and east. And to make matters worse the city is right next to the Thames River and has a pedestrianized zone; hence, you need to use a bridge or a select few roads to get around. In short, the city is a massive network or system consisting of a series of one-way roads connected by roundabouts. Easy enough when there are no accidents or roadworks. But a nightmare if there is ever an accident or more often than not roadworks. So last night, traffic quickly jammed across all branches because of a blockage at one point. This morning traffic was just as bad due to the same problem. If you follow this link you’ll find a map of the area and a huge yellow arrow where the road is currently closed.
According to Russell, Rys and Mandavilli, roundabouts are the “most effective type of intersection traffic control available today”. That may be true but according to yours truly when you build multiple ones on the back of each other then you run the risk of choking instead of moving traffic. Quite simply, the system grinds to a halt. Not good if you live in Kingston or have the misfortune of going thru Kingston to get to Richmond, Surbiton, Twickenham, Hampton Court, M3 … yeah you get the picture.
While I was sitting in traffic this morning I started thinking about this problem and what systems engineers deal with on a regular basis. If you look at roads as a system or a network, the result of a blockage is an annoyance. My 3-mile, 20 minute commute becomes a 3-mile 1 hour commute. So I listen to the news/music and look into my fellow commuters’ cars (and more often than not wish I hadn’t). In some systems, such as those on airplanes, a blockage in the fuel or hydraulics system can become catastrophic.
1D Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) software such as Flowmaster can help systems engineers model and analyze fluid mechanics in complex systems and is used by companies across a wide range of industries to reduce development time and costs of their thermo-fluid systems. If you are interested in learning more about Flowmaster then please feel free to read any of the free whitepapers or watch the on-demand webinars in our library here. I hope you find them helpful in picking up pointers in designing your systems. As for me, I could cycle to work but today’s forecast is spring showers which in BBC weather-speak means rain so cold and solid (!) that it’ll remove a couple of layers of skin so I think I’ll stay put for the day.
Until next time.