As a ‘statistic nerd’ I love data. I do believe in the saying; ‘lies, damn lies & statistics’ nevertheless the TomTom traffic index gives us a fair idea of how much of our time is wasted to traffic congestion.
Mexico City is not a surprising first (or last) place for traffic jams. Unsurprising to Americans, the City of Angels, Los Angeles is the most congested city in the US with Vancouver leading the pack in Canada (although I personally do not agree with this analysis).
There are some important omissions on the list – India in particular – as well as Lima, Peru, with its intolerable and mismanaged traffic flow.
The statistics on pollution and congestion in Indian cities are truly shocking. I have not visited the Sub-continent for over a decade and quite honestly, India is becoming less and less attractive to me.
Personally I do not not mind the high cost of living in my small mountain town as it means I spend less that 20 minutes in my car on an average day. Of course in a world of 7 billion people, we simply cannot all live in high-end rural towns, but it is interesting to see how some countries and cities try to address congestion.
Globally, these congestion statistics certainly support the important need for investment in green / public transportation. It is interesting to note how many cities in Brazil are on the list as ‘highly congested.’
As with Mexico, the increase in wealth in Latin America (and notably in Russia) has resulted in virtually uncontrolled growth. Weak planning and a very poor distribution of wealth has lead not only to horrendous traffic but also serious pollution and safety concerns.
Sao Paolo – Brazil’s massive urban conglomeration – boasts the highest percentage of private heliports in the world. This is reminiscent of the futuristic film, The Fifth Element. The elite simply do not interact with the ‘masses’ who spend hundreds of hours trapped in smog and insecurity.
My first blog about traffic was entitled “Batman gets me Home” where I explored public transport in Cusco and and cities such as La Paz, Bolivia and Medellin, Colombia.
Investing in public transport clearly increases economic efficiency and perhaps more importantly, liberates large parts of society from dangerous pollution and hundreds of hours of wasted time.
Looking to a large, more developed city, I first lived in Paris in 1992. As a very young student, I would take the crowed, but efficient Metro just about everywhere. By the time I moved back to Paris in 2008, I used the public ‘Velib’ shared bicycles and peddled almost everywhere in the France’s capital in under 30 minutes.
If we could replace private automobiles with clean, mass transportation, people would be healthier, families would have more time together and, indeed, the world could breathe a little easier…