If there are three claims that people in almost every part of the world make about where they live, those claims are: our weather is notoriously unpredictable, we are being taxed into the Stone Age, and... the traffic here is worse than almost anywhere else. Well, as part of its research and development of traffic management systems, IBM decided to find out just which places do have the worst traffic - or at least, which places have the residents who are most negatively affected by it. The results: if you don’t like traffic, don’t live in a fast-growing metropolis.
For its first-ever Global Commuter Pain Index, the company surveyed 8,192 drivers in 20 cities on six continents, getting feedback on issues such as commuting time, anger caused by driving in traffic, and the amount of time stuck in traffic.
Cities such as Los Angeles, New York and London, long thought of as traffic hellholes, actually scored relatively low on the index. This, say the researchers, is because those cities have been experiencing slow, steady growth over the past several years, so the traffic infrastructure has been able to keep up with the increased amount of vehicles on the road.
Places like Moscow, New Delhi, and the top spot holder Beijing, however, have been growing too fast. According to the Beijing municipal taxation office, the number of new cars in that city rose by 23.8 percent in the first four months of 2010. It’s no surprise that 95 percent of Beijing motorists surveyed felt that roadway traffic had negatively affected their health - the global average was 57 percent. Beijing does plan on investing over 331.2 billion yuan (US$48.8 billion) by 2015 to improve its traffic infrastructure, but that doesn’t free the roads up right now.
"Traditional solutions - building more roads - will not be enough to overcome the growth of traffic in these rapidly developing cities, so multiple solutions need to be deployed simultaneously to avoid a failure of the transportation networks," said Naveen Lamba, IBM's global industry lead for intelligent transportation. "New techniques are required that empower transportation officials to better understand and proactively manage the flow of traffic."
Other findings of the survey included the facts that 49 percent of global drivers thought traffic has gotten worse in the past three years, 87 percent have been stuck in traffic causing an average one-hour delay, and 31 percent have encountered traffic so heavy that they turned around and went home.
The city with the least painful commute, should you be curious, was Stockholm. Melbourne and Houston closely followed, in a tie for second-least.
IBM has previously conducted Commuter Pain surveys in 2008 and 2009, but only within the US.
Want a cleaner, faster loading and ad free reading experience?
Try New Atlas Plus. Learn more