In Europe, traffic congestion rose in 2013 for the first time in two years up approximately 6 percent in the last three quarters of the year. After suffering from a lack of economic growth and employment through the “Great Recession,” economic sentiment and hiring steadily improved in 2013 with the data indicating traffic congestion is once again on the rise as a result.
“While bad news for drivers, the gains we’ve seen in the U.S. and Europe in 2013 are cause for optimism about the direction of the economy,” said Bryan Mistele, INRIX president and chief executive officer. “If we’re to avoid traffic congestion becoming a further drain on our economies, we must invest in intelligent transportation systems and connected car technologies now. It’s too late to build our way out of congestion – we’ve learned there is no such thing as ‘shovel ready projects’. Optimizing road networks through better technology and data analytics will be the only way to relieve congestion as the economy recovers in the near term.”
With just over half of the world’s population living in urban centers today, the United Nations predicts that 7 of every 10 people will be living in an urban center by 2050. In addition, Ford Motor Company estimates the number of vehicles on the word’s roads will grow from 1 billion today to between 2- 4 billion in the same period of time. If traffic congestion continues to increase at 3x the rate of employment and GDP growth, the 10-day long traffic jams in China and 2-3 hour daily commutes drivers face in São Paulo Brazil could become a reality for drivers in Europe and North America in the not so distant future.
Ford Motor Company President of EMEA Stephen Odell echoed these concerns to attendees last week at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.
"If we do nothing we could end up with global gridlock," Odell warned. “The problem will be particularly serious in cities. We must all work together.”
With GDP growing and employment and population growth returning to many of our major urban centers, comparison of traffic congestion in 2013 versus 2012 illustrates the relationship between overall economic climate and global traffic congestion. Key global findings:
- Traffic is back on the rise in 2013. Traffic congestion increased in six of the 15 countries analysed: the U.S., UK, Ireland, Switzerland, Luxembourg and Italy compared to only one country in 2012 (Luxembourg). Traffic congestion increased in 105 of the 194 cities analysed. In the U.S., traffic congestion increased for 7 consecutive months from January through July 2013, up 10 of the 12 months of the year indicating a steadily improving economy.
- As GDP goes up, MPH goes down. Countries and metropolitan areas experiencing economic growth and employment generally recorded increases in traffic congestion in 2013. U.S. cities at or above the national averages in employment growth (nearly 2.2%) and GDP (1.7%) like Austin (2.8%, 3.4%), San Jose (3.4%, 3.33%),Seattle (2.6%, 2.5%) and Boston (2.1%, 1.7%) experienced some of the biggest increases in traffic congestion. Additionally, these cities also experienced some of the largest increases in population in the last year as people moved to these urban centers in search of work – Austin (6.6%), San Jose (3.9%), Seattle (4.25%), Boston (3%)
U.S. Cities that experienced some of the biggest declines in traffic congestion also were consistent to those where employment and economic growth were lagging compared to the national average including Youngstown (-.1%, -.9%), Albuquerque (.9%, .8%), Scranton (-.8%, .3%), Toledo (-.2%, .5%), Allentown (1.1%, 1.7%) and Washington D.C. (-.1% .6%). These metro areas often had less diverse economies dependent on weaker manufacturing and government sectors last year.
- In 2013, 61 U.S. metro areas experienced increased traffic congestion, a big shift from 2012 where only six cities experienced increases. Nine of America’s top ten cities for traffic experienced increases in 2013. The only city showing a decline was Washington D.C. which likely was attributed to cuts in government spending and hiring resulting from the U.S. budget sequester and the U.S. government shutdown in October.
U.S. Traffic Patterns and Worst Traffic Corridors
By analyzing traffic in the nation’s 100 largest metropolitan areas in 2013, INRIX data revealed that drivers wasted an average of 47 hours in America’s top 10 worst traffic cities – that’s more than a week’s vacation time.
|Rank||City||Hours Wasted in Traffic||Percent Change in Congestion|
|7||San Jose, CA||35||+10%|
However, not all congestion is created equal. In 2013, the Top 10 worst travel corridors in the U.S. cost their drivers 120 hours or 5 full days a year on average in gridlock – almost 3 times the national average. The Los Angeles area’s freeway system is more congested than that of any other city in the United States, U.K., France, Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands, by all measures. A full list of the nation’s 200 worst roads for traffic in 2013 is available at http://scorecard.inrix.com/scorecard/
Global Traffic Trends
INRIX analysed data from 13 European countries and found that levels of traffic congestion generally aligned closely with each country’s economic outlook. Those nations struggling with high unemployment and low or negative growth in 2013 typically recorded lower traffic congestion than in 2012. Spain and Portugal are both examples of this trend: in 2013 Spain’s economy contracted by 1.2% and Portugal experienced record unemployment.
The data shows a marked difference from 2012 where all of the European countries saw decreases in congestion. In 2013, five countries recorded increases in congestion according to the INRIX Index: the UK, Ireland, Switzerland, Luxembourg and Italy. The Swiss and British economies both grew by 1.9% in 2013. Although full-year figures have not been released for Ireland and Luxembourg, estimates show that Ireland is expected to grow by 1.3% and Luxembourg by 1.9% in 2013. The general trend is that countries with increased traffic congestion have a positive economic outlook, while those economies still struggling are experiencing less congested roads.
Based on the average hours wasted annually across the countries analysed, Europe’s worst countries for traffic congestion in 2013 were:
|2013 Rank||2012 Rank||Country||Hours Wasted in Traffic in 2013||Hours Wasted in Traffic in 2012||Change in Hours Wasted from 2012 to 2013|
Leveraging trillions of data points collected and archived by the INRIX Traffic Intelligence platform, the Scorecard publishes the most up-to-date information on traffic congestion. Since its ground-breaking first publication in 2007, the INRIX traffic scorecard annual report has analyzed and compared the status of traffic congestion throughout the top 100 metropolitan markets in the U.S. and the nation as a whole. In 2010, INRIX also introduced the Scorecard for major countries throughout Europe. used by regional departments of transportation, academics, media, city planners, economists and everyday drivers, the INRIX Traffic Scorecard has become a trusted benchmark for understanding traffic congestion and an indicator of the health of our local economies.
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INRIX is one of the fastest growing big data technology companies in the world. The company leverages big data analytics to reduce the individual, economic and environmental toll of traffic congestion. Through cutting-edge data intelligence and predictive traffic technologies, INRIX helps leading automakers, fleets, governments and news organizations make it easier for drivers to navigate their world. Our vision is simple – to solve traffic, empower drivers, inform planning and enhance commerce.
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