LA and New York must have the worst commutes known to mankind, right? Totally wrong. It gets, much, much worse—according to IBM's recent global survey of automotive horror, those two cities are among the best. What're the worst?
IBM's aptly-titled 2011 Commuter Pain Study polled drivers around the planet to find whose life sucks the most behind the wheel, based on the following factors:
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.
The results might surprise you, unless you live in Mexico City, whose traffic is appallingly three times as bad as New York's. Mexico City napped the #1 worst spot, with China claiming the next two, rounding out the three worst cities to operate a motor vehicle. The total list, ranked by worst to best of cities polled, is as follows:
Mexico City: 108
New Delhi: 72
Buenos Aires: 42
Los Angeles: 34
New York City: 28
But this isn't just an exercise in schadenfreude (although it can certainly be used for that)! Rather, IBM thinks the sort of data should prompt us to actually do something about it—because it's actually hurting our brains:
12 of the 15 cities surveyed in both 2010 and 2011 reported year-over-year increases in respondents who said that roadway traffic has increased their stress levels, with several cities posting substantial increases. For example, New York (45% in 2011 vs. 13% in 2010), Los Angeles (44% in 2011 vs. 21% in 2010), Toronto (40% in 2011 vs. 14% in 2010), London (33% in 2011 vs. 19% in 2010), Milan (61% in 2011 vs. 38% in 2010), and Johannesburg (52% in 2011 vs. 30% in 2010).
So how do we fix gridlock? IBM says building more (or wider) roads won't help—not enough space or money. The answer lies in data. Which makes sense, as IBM makes money by processing and selling data. But it does make sense—taking the roads we have already and routing traffic through them more efficiently. This means collecting data via road sensors and vehicle GPS, and sending it to drivers and municipalities in a way that lets you avoid congestion. That might mean taking an earlier or later exit. It might mean staying at work 20 minutes later, or leaving 15 minutes earlier.
These slight adjustments could make an enormous difference, because IBM wants this data to be way more than realtime—realtime doesn't cut it. Traffic data has to predict the roads, day after day. Once computers can tell us how bad cars are going to behave before they even do it, we can work backwards and correct problems before they arrive. It's a pretty science fiction take on the daily commute, but predicting the future might be the surest way of keeping you from taking that baseball bat out of your trunk. [IBM]