Commuters in India are spending an average of 45 minutes traveling one way as compared to 33 minutes spend by commuters in US on the one way daily travel. Commuters in Mumbai spend an average of 138 minutes, 2.3 hours everyday traveling to work while those in Delhi spend 1.7 hours. Though average both ways travel time for Delhi is relatively less than that of Mumbai, carbon dioxide emissions for the capital stand at 10,305.60 gms as compared 7,043.64 gms in Mumbai.
But before we go into more details let us understand what traffic congestion is –
Traffic congestion is a condition on road networks that occurs as use increases, and is characterized by slower speeds, longer trip times, and increased vehicular queueing. As demand approaches the capacity of a road (or of the intersections along the road), extreme traffic congestion sets in. Traffic congestion can lead to drivers becoming frustrated and engaging in road rage.
Traffic congestion, jams occur when there are more cars on the road than the road was originally designed for. One might think that increasing the road capacity might ease this congestion but according to a 2011 study in the The American Economic Review, researchers from the University of Toronto and the London School of Economics, analyzed data from the U.S. Highway Performance and Monitoring System for 1983, 1993 and 2003, as well as information on population, employment, geography, transit, and political factors. They determined that the number of vehicle-kilometers traveled (VKT) increases in direct proportion to the available lane-kilometers of roadways. The implication is that building new roads and widening existing ones only results in additional traffic that continues to rise until peak congestion returns to the previous level.
Instead Economist Anthony Downs argues that rush hour traffic congestion is inevitable because of the benefits of having a relatively standard work day ( too many people having the same routine, too many people using the same limited utilities). Downs advocates greater use of road pricing to reduce congestion (a demand-side solution, effectively rationing demand), in turn plowing the revenues generated therefrom into public transportation projects. Yes, he suggests that if people start paying for their road usage then perhaps traffic congestion might decrease. While we have already seen this implemented in the country in the form of toll booths on newly constructed highways, one wonders how the people who use cars as their main means of transportation, 56.57% in Delhi versus 25% in Mumbai, might react to this.
There are more people on roads, there are more cars on roads, than there were in the previous years and with every passing year these are going to increase and increase. Below are a few negative impacts these increasing numbers and traffic congestion have –
- Wasting time of motorists and passengers.
– As a non-productive activity for most people, congestion reduces regional economic health.
– Delays, which may result in late arrival for employment, meetings, and education, resulting in lost business, disciplinary action or other personal losses.
– Inability to forecast travel time accurately, leading to drivers allocating more time to travel “just in case”, and less time on productive activities.
- Environment Downside
– Wasted fuel increasing air pollution and carbon dioxide emissions owing to increased idling, acceleration and braking.
- Delays in Emergency situations
– Blocked traffic may interfere with the passage of emergency vehicles traveling to their destinations where they are urgently needed – ambulances, fire brigades, police help etc.
– Stressed and frustrated motorists, encouraging road rage and reduced health of motorists
– Higher chance of collisions due to tight spacing and constant stopping-and-going.
We think the most negative impact is the waste of time lost in commuting from one place to another. As real estate prices soar and people live farther and farther away from their work, a lot of time is lost not just in commuting but also waiting for the mass transit modes. People in Mumbai who take the bus everyday to work spend an average of 19 minutes waiting as opposed to the 6 minutes spent by the people in Delhi. 19 minutes spent waiting for a one way trip, everyday, accumulates to 13870 minutes an year, which is a total of 230 hours. Add to this the average 71 minutes one way travel time by buses, which totals to 863 hours in an year for the average Mumbaikar.
Solutions and suggestions have been made aplenty and mostly revolve around improving the road structure, better urban planning and design, controlling the supply and demand both of people and cars. But the problem with these solutions is that they will take time to implement and take an even longer time to show positive results. And, ironically it is only time that we do not seem to have.
A present day solution to this problem is the availability of accurate real-time commute information, a solution already adopted and implemented in the western world. On our side of the fence, while we wait for the administration to modernize the entire commute infrastructure, small steps are being taken by varied entrepreneurs to provide solutions to connecting and commuting problems. On demand cab and taxi services are on a rise and a small initiative has been taken by us, at zophop, to provide real-time bus information for 15 cities in India.
Using the Check-In feature, this crowdsourced effort gives better information each time more people use it. You can now view buses in real-time and get ETA to your stops too –
A bus moving in real-time in Mumbai
Number of buses with real time information at 10:07 in Mumbai
real time ETA to next stop
You can get the app here from Google PlayStore. Do Check-In while traveling and contribute to this crowdsourcing initiative – the more people use it, the more information everyone gets.
Average waiting times, traffic index, one way road trip times, percentage usage of transit means, economic theories and definitions have been referenced from from Wikipedia and Numbeo.