Holiday season, what a perfect time to catch up on academic papers :)
Have you ever wondered what happens when too many people try to use the same driving shortcuts? That's right, they no longer save you any time. "The Price of Anarchy in Transportation Networks" found that shortcuts actually increase driving time by up to 30% in major cities via clogging the alternate routes and often causing blowback on the main streets (anyone who has ever seen the backups which can occur when too many cars try to make a left across traffic knows what they mean).
The solution? The study's authors, three physicists from the University of New Mexico, recommend closing routes selectively, even in high congestion areas, in order to try and push drivers towards routes beneficial to the largest number of people.