For close to three millennia— from the days of the Romans until the interstates were built — conducting a traffic study was simple, dreary work: send somebody out with a clip board to count ox carts or stage coaches or automobiles.
Did this create traffic jams on the Appian Way or Oregon Trail? Probably not.
Then came the 21st century, and the need for clip boards and traffic tie ups disappeared forever.
The pundits will debate the claim by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) that he has no clue how traffic studies are done, but there’s no question that he knows the modern-day tools used to conduct them.
Before he became governor, the man used to drive himself around.
Like everybody else who drives, Christie knows about traffic cameras. New Jersey has almost as many of them as it does cranberries, and they outnumber the pigeons on the suddenly-controversial approaches to the George Washington Bridge.
Back in the days before he acquired a chauffeur Christie had to listen to the same radio traffic reports as the plebeians. As an observant fellow, he’s bound to have noticed that in the past decade they’ve gotten much more sophisticated.
Those cameras have helped, but a major advance has been because a company called Inrix and a few competitors take the heartbeat of traffic and supply local radio and TV stations with what they report. Inrix has a world-wide network of transponders installed in most trucks and what are called “fleet vehicles” — rental cars and delivery vans.
Those transponders provide real-time information, so your cheerful traffic reporter can tell you exactly how much traffic to expect — or where the major tie ups are — on, for example, the George Washington Bridge.