Apr. 16, 1998 Avoiding road rage - violence by motorists, particularly those frustrated with the perceived discourtesy of other drivers - can be accomplished with the help of queueing research, the subject of a paper being delivered by "Dr Queue" on Monday, April 27 at the Montreal conference of the Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences (INFORMS) and the Canadian Operations Research Society (CORS).
Motorists cutting off one another and other apparently obnoxious behavior in traffic have direct analogues in the more traditional "standing queues" modeled in queuing research. Fairness in these traditional waiting lines goes along with the custom of "first come, first served," which is respected by some people and ignored by others, often to their peril.
Let One in And Go
Dr. Richard C. Larson ("Dr. Queue"), Professor of Electrical Engineering and Director of the Center for Advanced Educational Services at MIT, observes that a trivial incident, such as one car cutting in front of another, can tap into a reservoir of anger, hostility, and frustration.
Noting that a perceived lack of social justice often underlies frustration with waiting, he recommends that motorists everywhere follow a tip given in a British safety booklet: Wherever there's merging traffic, follow the rule, "let one in and go." This is the behavior of "fair" standing queues, as evidenced in the merger of two queues of skiers waiting to get on a ski lift.
Government can help fight road rage, he notes, pointing to a series of drive-time public service announcements in Maryland aimed at shaming drivers into reintroducing courtesy to their driving. Dr. Larson urges more queue theorists to examine road rage, noting that woefully little serious research has been accomplished to date.
Avoiding Unbearable Lines
Among Dr. Larson's advice for avoiding other types of lines and queues is -
- Pay bills by mail, not in person
- Use express check-ins and check-outs at hotels and rental car agencies
- Avoid registering in person with motor vehicle bureaus - do it by mail
- Let a travel agent issue your airplane boarding passes
Organizations Can Help
Dr. Larson, a leader in the operations research field of queueing, has conducted research that benefits both consumers and organizations. Clients have asked him to apply his work at post offices, movie theaters, banks, police departments, sanitation departments, and emergency services.
His advice to organizations includes -
- Use serpentine, rather than individual lines at banks, fast food restaurants, and other establishments
- Entertain, enlighten, and engage those waiting on lines
- Announce delays
- Compensate customers who are not served within a guaranteed period of time
- Let customers serve themselves
Operations Research Convention in Montreal
Dr. Larson's lecture, "Beyond the Physics of Queueing," is the Omega Rho Distinguished Plenary keynote. Omega Rho is a society of collegiate chapters and members, founded in 1976 to honor excellence in operations research and management science-related disciplines.
The lecture is being given at a convention of INFORMS and CORS in Montreal. The convention takes place at the MontrŽal Bonaventure Hilton and Queen Elizabeth Hotel from Sunday, April 26 to Wednesday, April 29.
The convention will include sessions on topics applied to a wide number of fields, including aviation, health care, information technology, the Internet, energy, marketing, package delivery, pharmaceuticals, securities, and telecommunications. More than 1,600 papers are scheduled to be delivered at the four-day conference.
Operations researchers and management scientists are little known but indispensable experts who use science to improve decision-making, management, and operations. They work throughout business, government, and academia. Additional information on the conference, including a full list of workshops, is available at http://www.informs.org/Conf/Montreal98/
The Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences (INFORMS) is an international scientific society with 12,000 members, including Nobel Prize laureates, dedicated to applying scientific methods to help improve decision-making, management, and operations. Members of INFORMS work primarily in business, government, and academia. They are represented in fields as diverse as airlines, health care, law enforcement, the military, the stock market, and telecommunications.
The Canadian Operations Research Society (CORS), founded in 1958, works to advance the theory and practice of operations research. Its primary purpose is to stimulate and promote contacts between those interested in operations research. CORS members are employed across Canada in various industries, government, and academia.
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