Think your commute sucks? We've got news for you: Even if you live in New York or Los Angeles, life could be worse. Chuck Squatriglia of Wired.com examines this IBM study of the world's crappiest commutes. —Ed.
Quit whining about your commute. It isn't that bad, even for you Angelinos and New Yorkers. Your daily slog through traffic is nothing compared to Moscow, where people might spend more than three hours sucking exhaust fumes while going nowhere fast.
Even that pales compared to New Dehli, where 96 percent of drivers say their commute is so hellish it harms their health. And you'll get no sympathy in Beijing, where traffic can get so bad that almost 7 out of 10 drivers have at some point said, "Screw this" and gone home.
Number-crunchers at IBM Research surveyed 8,192 motorists in 20 cities, and - no surprise - most of them think traffic has only grown worse during the past three years. More than half said gridlock has wreaked havoc on their physical or mental health. One-third said it is undercutting their productivity at work or school.
As IBM notes, mounting congestion is relatively new phenomenon in emerging markets where the economy is growing faster than the infrastructure. That stands in contrast to cities like New York, Houston and Los Angeles, where growth has occurred over time, allowing traffic engineers to at least try to keep up.
But no matter the cause, we can't pave our way out of this.
"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," says Naveen Lamba, who has the unusual title of IBM global industry lead for intelligent transportation. "New technologies are required that empower transportation officials to better understand and proactively manage the flow of traffic."
You'd expect IBM to say that since it is developing just that sort of technology. But the numbers back it up. China is the world's largest auto market, and traffic volume in Beijing is growing 10 percent annually. Moscow says unsnarling its roads will cost $6.5 billion. The average traffic speed in New Dehli will fall from 15 km/hr to just 5 by the end of next year. The list goes on.
IBM used the results to compile a "Commuter Pain Index," which ranks the emotional and economic toll of commuting. The index is a measure of 10 criteria, from the amount of time spent sitting in traffic to the frequency with which people simply gave up and went home.
Here it is, by the numbers:
Some highlights, or maybe we should say low points, from the study:
Forty-nine percent of respondents say traffic has gotten worse in the past three years and 18 percent say it is a lot worse. Oddly, 16 percent of those surveyed in Beijing and 17 percent of those in New Dehli say things have improved.
Almost nine in 10 respondents say they've sat in gridlocked traffic at some point during the past three years. The average delay was 1 hour, but Muscovites wish it was that long. They're used to spending an average of 2.5 hours sitting still in the worst tie-ups. Forty percent said they've spent three hours or more in stymied traffic.
Thirty-one percent of respondents said they've encountered traffic so bad they simply turned around and went home. That number climbed to 69 percent for residents of Beijing.
Here in the United States, 85 percent of respondents say traffic is as bad or worse now than it was three years ago. But that doesn't mean they're about to change their behavior. More than 8 in 10 people drive solo to work - compared to 50 percent for the rest of the world - and only 3.1 percent carpool.
Perhaps that's why we spend more money driving than we do on groceries.
IBM's web-based survey, conducted by Survey Sampling International in 2008 and 2009 and released today, has a margin of error of plus or minus 2 points overall and plus or minus 5 points when comparing cities. Respondents were drivers between 18 and 65 years old.
Photo Credit: Leszek Golubinski/Flickr
This post originally appeared on Wired.com at 8:00 AM on June 30, 2010.