By Andrew Nusca
Posting in Cities
Beijing, Mexico City and Johannesburg are the cities in the world with the worst commutes. Here's a list of the Top 10 and Top 20.
After all, most New Yorkers, Los Angelenos, Montréalais or Parisians think nothing of sitting in a cloud of smog on the way to work each morning.
Guess what: those cities didn't even break the Top 10.
Residents of Beijing, China can officially say that their city has the worst commute in the world, according to a new study.
In the IBM study, which polled 8,192 motorists in 20 international cities on five continents about their "global commuter pain," traffic has gotten worse in the past three years, reported participants.
Researchers developed an index that factors in commuting time, time stuck in traffic, price of gas, if traffic has gotten better or worse, stress levels and affect on work.
The Top 10 cities with the worst commute in the world:
- Beijing (99)
- Mexico City (99)
- Johannesburg (97)
- Moscow (84)
- New Delhi (81)
- Sao Paolo (75)
- Milan (52)
- Buenos Aires (50)
- Madrid (48)
- London (36)
Rounding out the Top 20:
- Paris (36)
- Toronto (32)
- Amsterdam (25)
- Los Angeles (25)
- Berlin (24)
- Montreal (23)
- New York (19)
- Houston (17)
- Melbourne (17)
- Stockholm (15)
Of course, the survey didn't include all world cities, of course -- what's important is not the absolute number, but the relative index score.
To wit: Houston is only two index points worse than Stockholm, and New York is only two points worse than that; meanwhile, Paris and London are almost twice as bad as New York, and Beijing, Mexico City and Moscow (two-and-a-half hour traffic jams, on average) blow everyone else out of the water.
The big takeway from such a survey is that the above list is comprised of international cities that are vital to the global economy -- and yet utterly inefficient as systems, with grueling commutes and a failing transportation (read: automobile) infrastructure that's not keeping up with urban growth.
More takeaways from the study:
- 57 percent of respondents say that roadway traffic has negatively affect their health.
- That percentage rises to 96 percent in New Delhi and 95 percent in Beijing.
- 29 percent of respondents say that roadway traffic has negatively affected work or school performance.
- That percentage rises to 84 percent in Beijing, 62 percent in New Delhi and 56 percent in Mexico City.
- On the flip side, just 14 percent of drivers in Stockholm said that roadway traffic negatively affected work or school performance. Must be all those bicycle lanes.
- Across all cities, 49 percent of drivers think that roadway traffic has gotten worse in the last three years; 18 percent think it has gotten "a lot" worse.
- 87 percent of respondents said they've been stuck in roadway traffic in the last three years.
- The average commuter's delay is one hour.
- The best cities for traffic delays: Melbourne, Stockholm, Buenos Aires. The worst: Moscow, by far.
What's so bad about Beijing and New Delhi, you ask? It's actually a matter that gets to the core issue of urban planning: growth.
The cities experiencing extreme congestion are the ones developing the most rapidly. Thanks to economic booms, those cities haven't had time to build out infrastructure the way cities with more gradual growth -- New York, London, Los Angeles -- have.
Without time or resources but facing an influx of residents, urban planners and city officials simply can't keep up.
(SmartPlanet's Heather Clancy, writing at the Business Brains blog, elaborates on what some of them can do.)
- If commuting time could be reduced, 16 percent of those surveyed said they would choose to work more. In New Delhi, that figure is 40 percent. In Madrid, that figure is five percent. (They'd rather take a siesta, I gather.)
- 31 percent of respondents said that traffic has been so bad that they simply turned around and went home. In Beijing, that figure rises to 69 percent; in Berlin, that figure is only 15 percent.
- 38 percent of respondents worldwide said they decided not to make a driving trip in the last month due to anticipated traffic.
- Economic ramifications abound: Of those trips, 27 percent were for work or school, 22 percent for recreation, 21 percent for shopping, 10 percent for entertainment, 7 percent for vacation and 6 percent for dining out.
So what can be done? I spoke with Naveen Lamba, IBM's global industry lead for "intelligent transportation," on the phone about his team's survey.
Speaking from Washington, D.C. -- a commuting nightmare in its own right -- Lamba said that building more roads won't fix the problem alone.
Here's what he had to say:
There is only so much you can do in terms of changing the physical network -- it takes a lot of money, a lot of time -- and many times there is no physical space to add. Take New York City as an example. You can't widen the streets. There's very limited ability to change the network itself. Then the focus changes to, how do we get more utilization out of the assets we have?
You have to look at the whole system holistically. You have to do everything very aggressively to make a measurable improvement to the system.
Today, each tries to get the most out of their individual modes -- the subway system, the street system, the bus system. There can be a lot of tools that can be built for each of these modes that can further improve their operations. But how can we integrate those assets and optimize the operation of one integrated multi-modal system, as opposed to five separate individual modes?
All these systems produce a lot of data. Some of it is captured, some of it is lost. You know where trains are, buses, taxis. Cameras are taking photos in places. How do you pull all of this together? What analytics can be done on it?
Can the public transit system ramp up in real time to pick up the slack? We are building tools to improve and make easier the real-time integration of multi-modal data. All this in real-time is great, but there's very limited value in working with real-time information, and the value falls off very quickly -- within a few minutes, that data is almost worthless. The real challenge is to get ahead of the curve and get ahead of real time.
We've built some very very accurate traffic prediction tools, up to 60 minutes ahead of time. Once you can predict that accurately, then it gets very interesting. You can think about and analyze all sorts of interventions.
Instead of 15 areas getting congested, you can get eight areas congested. Instead of a 40-minute delay, you can have an 18-minute delay.
We can measure convenience. Length of commute. The carbon footprint of your journey.
There's a lot of interest in building smarter transportation solutions. These types of surveys provide very valuable insight in what's on the customer's mind. Our customer might be the city, but at the end of the day, the actual user is the traveler. What are their pain points? What is bothering them most?
This is the third survey we did. The first two were U.S.-focused. There are different cultural insights for the same set of circumstances, people in different parts of the world react differently.
How do we take the solutions we have? Something that works very well in New York or Stockholm may be useless in Bangalore. How do tweak these assets.
IBM is a large company. We have a significant presence in each of these cities. The local team is there and actively looking at the challenges. We get some insight from that, but surveys like this provide another perspective.
Cities like New York and L.A., in previous surveys, showed up as one of the most congested cities. But when you compare that to some of these other cities, they almost seem very, very efficient in terms of transportation. It's all relative.
Automobile ownership and the rate at which it's growing in cities -- infrastructure cannot grow at those rates. In the U.S., the infrastructure has been gradually growing. But if you look at the developing countries, automobile ownership, the rate of increase has been incredible. The situation is really bad now, but at the rate they're increasing, they're going to break down if something is not done. It's almost at a crisis now where they have to be reacting right now.
Places like Beijing: it's very congested now, but at the same time, people also say that the traffic congestion has improved dramatically over the last few years. We keep hearing of all these massive infrastructure projects in Beijing. They've realized that they have to do something now, [such as] putting in high-speed rail. People have started to feel the difference.
The idea has been, given these local insights that we get, how do you pull together these building blocks? What combination works best for this city?
Photo: Teh Eng Koon/AFP/Getty Images
Jul 2, 2010
If you visit (http://www.kleanindustries.com/s/PressReleases.asp?ReportID=407878) you will get the exact same report. Even down to "So what can be done? I spoke with Naveen Lamba," . Who actually spoke with Mr. Lamba, was it you Adrian?. One suspects a little plagurism is abound!
While we all like to think that our suffering is the worst, reality is that if your city is not listed is because it is not the worst. According to the article it seems that from the questions they were able to gauge how much the traffic affects the people and the economy, How frequent there are traffic jams are and how long the peak hour lasts. E.g. Peak time in Toronto is awful but comparatively speaking it is fairly the same as a regular non peak time business day in Mexico City. This despite the fact that each car in Mexico city MUST stay home one day of the week (or two under some circumstances).
I live in Melbourne, and yes, the traffic can get bad, but nothing like Sydney, Manila, Bangkok, Shenzhen, Auckland and Seoul - all cities that have exereinces really bad traffic - worse than my wort ever traffic jam in Melboune. Locals in all of those cities confirmed that the bad traffic was normal. This tells me that study must have been flawed in it's method and therefore invalid as the basis for the article apart from general lessons that all big cities have traffic problems to some extend ot another...
Having lived in Trinidad & Tobago and travelled in London, NYC, Toronto, Vancouver, Miami, Washington, Dallas, LA, Paris, Cairo and Rome to name a few, I've come to the conclusion that all large cities suffer the same problem when it comes to traffic jams etc. Here in Port of Spain, T&T a ten minute commute at night turns out to be 1.5 hours at peak periods. One of the options being looked at is a Rapid Rail system. London, in 2003 installed a toll charge to enter the central area, backed up by cctv traffic monitoring and electronic billing to commuters entering the area. It was reported that there was an approximately 30% reduction in traffic in the first month. Maybe that should guide the rest of the world in their options.
I believe the solution to traffic congestion, is to get people out of their personal automobiles. And into a mass transit system. The growing population does not need more roads, but instead, less personal automobiles, on the road. When planners plan mass transit systems. The first thing they need to do. Is figure out where to place destination stations. These would be the large installations, where large numbers of people are employed. Such as government installations. Then they can look at the hundreds of neighborhoods. And figure out where they can place park and ride parking lots. And starting stations. Which would be where the transit vehicles, would leave from.
Okay, driving to/from the cities mentioned can be a nightmare. But more important, what's the public transportation like? Don't we want to reduce pollution? What are the cities doing to improve public transportation?
And where is Karachi i also face this problem in my city, how you conduct this survey i also now where i living is that place impact problem on me. If any one knows share their thought with me.
Why is it that this study confines itself to commuting by car only. In These cities there is public transport available, yet no mention is made of any alternate way to get around other than by car. It seriously call into question the conclusions drawn.
Missed the boat entirely on this one folks. Melbourne gets a mention and Sydney doesn't? Sydney has to be in the worst top 10 the commute here is truly atrocious on any form of transport you care to mention. frankh. Sydney, Australia
More and more frequent "spare the air days" (no fireplaces, bbqs, any outside bonfires, etc., plus discouraged commuting) in San Francisco and the Bay Area illustrate the horrendous pollution coming all the way across the vast Pacific Ocean, primarily from the China mainland. So nice of them to share their smog with us along with our jobs.
Montreal and SF (specially coming from San Jose) can get pretty tiring but just at peak time that does not last as long as in Mexico or NYC. Thankfully now I live in a decent sized city (Kitchener, Ontario) and my commute is 10 minutes from the city's North outskirt to downtown.
I don't understand how Toronto can be higher in the list than NYC. I guess people here in Canada like to complain more. Answering to "pgm554" Yes, we want to think that our pain is the worst, but having driven there and in those other cities, The beltway is a Sunday drive compared. 3 hour traffic jams in Mexico City is nothing rare, actually, most days are like that. A 45minute commute for a 10 KM drive? that's a normal drive to school. NYC: 1.5 hours just to cross the Holland tunnel (in a good day). As for Toronto? mostly when it rains or there is snow, I have no clue why people cannot drive under those normal conditions.
Not sure if that helps. (much). They have bicycle lanes in Beijing the size of regular traffic lanes separated by concrete medians with trees planted in them (at least some of them). I was in a taxi there who pulled into one to drop me off. The policeman on the corner came over and wrote him a ticket for going through the bike lane. I guess the traffic was getting to him.
DC is rated number 3 in US in terms of commutes,so how does Houston rate over DC? http://www.thedailybeast.com/blogs-and-stories/2010-01-19/americas-75-worst-commutes/full/
I would like to respond to this article but my brain was so badly damaged by the pollution in Mexico City and I can't think of anything to say. :-(
I remember in the 1980's flying in to Hong Kong. From many miles away over the ocean you could see the island... clearly. You could see the buildings as the plane approached. Fast forward to 2003 flying in to Hong Kong, all you could see was... well, it looked like we were in a cloud that started way off shore from the ocean. After landing, the pollution was so bad you could not even see across the tarmac. And that was Hong Kong. Took a train to Guangzhou. Clear skies? No clouds? It was kind of like Henry Ford said with his cars. Paraphrasing... the sky can be any color you want as long as it is a dirty grey color. Busses belching polluted smoke, everyone covering their noses and mouths with handkerchiefs. Very, very, very hard to breathe without coughing after every breath. It was worse than Los Angeles in the 1970's. I can not believe it did not make the list. The Chinese government really needs to do something to crack down on all the air and water pollution in China. They are moving towards a lot of solar, but the pollution will be so bad that direct sunlight will probably not even reach the solar panels. Which is a shame. The country is beautiful. And the people there are very friendly. They deserve better.