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Transportation: Is City Transportation Too Complex For The Human Mind?

First Posted: Feb 19, 2016 09:46 PM EST

New findings published in the journal Science Advances investigates whether big-cit transportation systems could be too complex for human minds.

During this recent study, researchers analyzed the world's 15 largest metropolitan transport networks. Findings revealed that maps should hold no more than 250 connection points in order to make them easily readable and that the information for planning a trip rounds out at about 8 bits. (According to researchers, a "bit" is a binary digit that's the most basic unit of information.)

"Human cognitive capacity is limited, and cities and their transportation networks have grown to the point where they have reached a level of complexity that is beyond human processing capability to navigate around them. In particular, the search for a simplest path becomes inefficient when multiple modes of transport are involved and when a transportation system has too many interconnections," Mason Porter, Professor of Nonlinear and Complex Systems in the Mathematical Institute at the University of Oxford, said in a news release. "There are so many distractions on these transport maps that it becomes like a game of Where's Waldo? [Where's Wally?]"

Based on two connections at the basis-in which researchers visited four stations in total-they also found that navigating transport networks in major cities can overwhelm the capacity of the human brain.

Researchers noted that when further interchanges and other modes of transportation were added into the mix--including busses or trams--the complexity of networks even went past the 8-bit threshold, which was demonstrated by using the multimodal transportation networks from New York City, Tokyo, and Paris.

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