Whoever thought traffic engineering could be interesting? I worked at the Utah Traffic Lab for months doing IT. If I knew that engineers and researchers have this much fun, I would have switched majors. Vanderbilt has a knack for finding the most interesting studies in the fields of engineering, transportation planning and social psychology. In this book, he weaves them all together.
There are a few take-aways for planners: 1. due to traffic fatalities, cities are less dangerous than exurbs, because 2. cities have more accidents, but fewer fatal ones, because 3. closed in spaces prompt people to drive slower, regardless of the speed limit; 4. Latent traffic demand means that creating more streets actually can create more traffic. Closing them will often force people to find other ways of arriving. That is why traffic is so much worse in LA than it is in Boston. Finally, 5. Experiments with roundabouts and streets with no signs have yielded very positive results.
I liked the chapter about engineers who "play God in Los Angeles," directing flows through powerful computer systems. They work overtime on the night of the Emmys.