Traffic Jams – a costly affair

“Sitting, Waiting, Wishing” – Jack Johnson sings in his famous love song to express his desperation about a relationship with a woman. Unfortunately, this is exactly what thousands of people do every day but not so much because of love issues: they sit in their car, wait for the traffic jam dissolve, and wish they were on a tropical island or the like. The problem of being stuck in traffic is not only frustrating to the individual - it comes at a high price for the economy, the environment, and the overall quality of life.

Estimates suggest that the total bill of traffic jams is 502 billion euros across all EU member states per year.[1] From a business mobility perspective, employees lose hours of work, which cuts real revenue. In response to these pressing problems, researchers from everywhere tinker with technologies to analyse and understand the nature of traffic jams. But what are the world’s most congested urban areas? And how can companies act to minimise the lost hours of their workers?

The TomTom Congestion Index could mean fewer traffic jams

Reliable information about real life congestion levels in urban areas is an important part in developing business mobility solutions. In 2007, the navigation system provider TomTom started an initiative called the TomTom Congestion Index.[2] Over several years, TomTom has captured travel time information by comparing their customers’ travel times during non-congested periods with travel times in peak hours. As a result, TomTom assigned a “Congestion Level Percentage” to every major city in Europe and North America. In the first quarter of 2012, Warsaw, for example, had a congestion level of 42%, which is the highest percentage of all cities in Europe.[3] This means that in Warsaw you need on average 42% more time for a certain travel distance when there’s traffic congestion in comparison to when traffic flows smoothly. Added together, on a 30 minute commute to work an employee loses 106 hours stuck in traffic per year. In the United States, Los Angeles is the most congested city with a “Traffic Level” of 33% whereby 92 hours are lost per year.[4] Based on this data, TomTom say they can help drivers to find faster routes during peak hours, thus alleviating congestion in cities and urban areas.

What companies can do to fight traffic jams

Some companies organise car pools where employees commute to work together in one car. This reduces the number of cars on the road and saves fuel. If applied on a large scale, car pooling could also ease traffic jams and congestion. The only flaw is that if there is a traffic jam on one particular road, all employees lose hours. Another measure is the so-called job ticket. It is a monthly or annual season ticket purchased by a company from the public transport operator. Many companies then pass the tickets onto their employees for a reduced price or even for free, effectively subsidising their travel to work. In the long run, however, technology that regulates traffic in all its aspects could put an end to traffic jams once and for all. The TomTom Congestion Index supports this notion: it can give detailed information about streets and highways. It additionally tells you on what days and at what time the road will be free or whether there will be a traffic jam or not. Yet, in order to make travelling by car more affordable for everyone we must work together: industry, policy makers, and society as a whole!

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