July 6, 2010

IBM conducts Commuter Pain Survey

“If all the cars in the United States were placed end to end, it would probably be Labor Day Weekend.”
- Doug Larson

The index is comprised of 10 issues: 1) commuting time, 2) time stuck in traffic, agreement that: 3) price of gas is already too high, 4) traffic has gotten worse, 5) start-stop traffic is a problem, 6) driving causes stress, 7) driving causes anger, 8) traffic affects work, 9) traffic so bad driving stopped, and 10) decided not to make trip due to traffic.

IBM conducted a survey of adult drivers in twenty major cities around the world – repeating similar surveys done in the U.S. alone in May 2008 and August 2009. This survey, intended to gather drivers’ opinions about local traffic and related issues, was conducted in native languages in Amsterdam, Beijing, Berlin, Buenos Aires, Houston, Johannesburg, Los Angeles, London, Madrid, Melbourne, Mexico City, Milan, Moscow, Montreal, New Delhi, New York, Paris, Sao Paulo, Stockholm and Toronto.There were 8,192 responses in the final data set – at least 400 from each city.

Key findings from the report:
  • While driving is by far the main way in which Americans go to and from work, this is distinctly contrary to other parts of the world. For instance, while over 90% of the respondents in New York and Los Angeles reported driving to work, only 32% did in Paris, 34% in Amsterdam and Buenos Aires, and 37% in Milan. The worldwide average in this study is 56%, although all Latin American and Asian cities surveyed were below 50%. The only cities outside of the U.S. with comparatively high driving levels were Stockholm (64%), Toronto (70%), Johannesburg (81%), and Melbourne (91%).
  • The typical one-way length of commuting in these cities is 13 miles, or 32 minutes (average driving speed of 24.4 miles per hour). The variation among average distances was no more than 4 miles for these cities, but the times ranged from a low of 27 minutes in New York, Los Angeles, and Melbourne, to a high of 40-42 minutes in Mexico City, New Delhi, Beijing, and Moscow.
  • Fuel prices, notably in flux in recent years, appear to have a potential bearing on the willingness of commuters to drive to work. About a quarter of the respondents said that gas prices would have to rise by 20-30% for them to seriously consider other forms of transportation.
  • Has traffic ever been so bad in the last three years as to alter the traveling plans of commuters? Overall, 31% of the respondents said yes, 69% in Beijing said yes, followed by 58% in New Delhi, 50% in Mexico City, and 45% in Sao Paulo. Similarly, when asked whether in the last month they had cancelled a driving trip due to anticipated traffic, 38% overall said yes.
  • Interestingly, the two cities with the most painful commutes, according to the survey – Beijing and Mexico City – had bus rates of 44% and 32%, respectively – raising the thought of how much worse traffic would have been if so many people did not travel by bus.”

In conclusion, IBM notes that "We need to understand that traffic is not just a line of cars: It is a web of connections. A real solution will look at relationships across the entire road network and all the other systems that are touched by it: our supply chains, our environment, our companies, the way people and communities live and work."

IBM report -  The Globalisation of Traffic Congestion
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