Traveling to work in the summer, I drive down a freeway 77 which goes from 3 lanes into 2 lanes, right before it overpasses interstate 44.

There are several short entrances and exit ramps right before and during the narrowing.  In morning traffic, it always bottlenecks.

Like a construction site where one lane is closed down, the doomed lane is well marked in advance as ending. Most of the morning commuters know the lane will end. This seems to be a classic case of the “prisoners dilemma.” Should you take the closing lane, slowing everybody down, but minimizing your travel time by cutting into the remaining lanes in the last second?Or should you move to the other lanes and orderly get into the lanes that are slowing down?

Game theory would predict that commuters would take advantage of the group and stay in the ending lane, as it would be more advantageous to them.  However, this is not the case.  This week I only saw 2 cars take the quick route.  So the traffic slowed but did not come to a stop.

During the school year, when traffic is heavier it makes travel time through the bottle neck much longer and variable.  There is a considerably higher percentage of people that cut in as the lane ends. But still there is a clear advantage staying in the ending lane and cutting. Theoretically, this should not occur. Also interesting on these busy days, sometime someone will block the speedster, by purposely staying in the ending lane but going the speed of the slower lane.

It could be that in reality, as opposed to theory, the chance of getting whacked for being a jerk increases too much to risk it. Yet, I believe most do not take this route, because they do not want to be seen as the jerk, hurting the whole.

Even in the prisoners dilemma, the cops and judge know you cut a deal. It would seem that the underwaterness of mortgages and the foreclosure rates are following this pattern… Nobody wants to be the first to turn in the keys… but a neighborhood could quickly turn int a ghost town as the frustration builds.





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