'A portrait of human pain’.
That’s how IBM describes the results
of its 2011 worldwide Commuter Pain Survey.
This survey of 8000 commuters in 20 cities around
the world paints a picture of frustration, delay,
despair and disruption to work.
All over the world respondents
reported being stuck in traffic for very long
periods and reporting routine delays of an hour or
more. 47% reported cancelling a trip in the last
month due to anticipated traffic.
From the results the IBM researchers
have constructed a Commuter Pain Index based on 10
time stuck in traffic
perception that price of gas is
already too high
perception that traffic has got worse
perception that start-stop
traffic is a problem
perception that driving causes
perception that driving causes
perception that traffic affects
perception that traffic so bad
driving stopped, and
decisions not to make a trip due
A tale of two worlds?
If we think we’ve got it bad in the
West, the Commuter Pain Index provides a reality
check. The most painful places to commute are, in
order of anguish: Mexico City, Shenzhen, Beijing,
Nairobi, Johannesburg, Bangalore and New Delhi.
These all have 70 or more points on the index.
At the bottom of the list are
Madrid, New York, Toronto, Stockholm, Chicago,
London and Montreal, all with under 30 points.
We suspect commuters in these cities may be
surprised at being relatively better off - or maybe
relieved that it's much worse elsewhere.
There could be a variety of reasons
why these western cities are are lower down the pain
league. The report suggests better public
transport and congestion charges in Stockholm and
London (i.e. managing the traffic better) as
It could also be that by surveying
drivers the pain index underestimates the sheer
frustration felt by regular users of public
transport! Delays on the rail and underground
networks can be just as painful as those on the
But there is a big message coming
out of the commuter pain being experienced in the
emerging megacities of the developing world.
Car ownership in these cities is nowhere near peak
levels yet - so there will be much more pain to come
as car ownership increases and urban concentration
What is to be done?
The solutions in the report focus on
the benefits of using technology to manage mobility
and to provide passenger information - IBM says it
is at the forefront of technology in these fields.
But there is also a nod towards the
opportunities for telecommuting:
better route guidance, to use
roads more efficiently
systems, including better traffic prediction, to
allow people to alter their routes or traveling
times and allow system operators to manage the
road network better
greater ease in switching
between cars and various forms of public
faster removal of road blockages
due to damages or collisions from
more dynamic workplaces that
allow telecommuting flexibility.
At Flexibility, we'd put number 5 at number 1.
Transport technologists often focus on using
technology to manage mobility, rather than using
technology to replace it. It's an engineering
thing - they love to swing metal and engines around.
It's a harder deal conceptually to envisage doing
without the movement and the things that move us.
In the end, though, we do need to
move so its a 'both .. and'. But the message
within this report for us is that for congestion -
we ain't seen nothing yet. So we should eliminate
the trips we can, and then do what we can to manage