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Surviving the Top Commuter Pains : IMT Industry Market Trends

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Published on Monday, 23 January 2012 Written by Super User

Today, there are 3.2 million Americans who face "extreme commutes" of 90 minutes or longer to work each day, according to the U.S. Census Bureau's latest figures. Across the nation, there are 16.5 million commuters who leave for work between midnight and 5:59 a.m., representing 12.4 percent of all Americans who commute to work.

For most other commuters worldwide, today's commute is no less unpleasant, according to the latest findings.

Based on a recent survey of more than 8,000 drivers from 20 cities around the world, the average one-way length of the commute for all cities is 12.8 miles, taking about 33 minutes — meaning they are traveling slightly more than 23 miles per hour, a pace most would likely consider frustratingly "leisurely." In IBM's latest global Commuter Pain Survey findings, American respondents (New York City, Chicago and Los Angeles), as well as inhabitants of Johannesburg, South Africa, have the farthest to travel (15+ miles).

While traffic comes in all forms, stop-and‐start traffic is considered the worst part of the commute (51 percent), followed by an unreliable journey time (31 percent), low speed (28 percent) and rude or aggressive drivers (27 percent). Only 11 percent said there is nothing to complain about.

Forty-one percent of respondents overall believe that traffic has gotten worse over the past three years in the areas where they commute, while 34 percent believe it has improved, according to IBM's findings. In 2011 alone, far more commuters rated their traffic experience as worse than as improved. In fact, in 12 of the 20 cities, commuters rated the traffic experience as significantly worse when netted against those who rated it as improved.

IBM Commuter Pain Index 502x283.jpg
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Credit: IBM

Most drivers have probably experienced a nightmare commute, sitting in the car for more than an hour simply to move a mile. Indeed, 91 percent of all respondents said they have found themselves stuck in traffic at some point over the past three years. While usual delays were 30 minutes (28 percent) to 1 hour (27 percent), the maximum delay reported was about 1.3 hours when averaged across all cities. Approximately 35 percent of respondents reported facing delays of more than an hour.

Beyond tardiness, traffic congestion can have other negative effects on commuters.

"Commuting doesn't occur in a vacuum," Naveen Lamba, IBM's global intelligent transportation expert, said in an announcement of the findings. "A person's emotional response to the daily commute is colored by many factors — pertaining both to traffic congestion as well as to other, unrelated, issues. This year's Global Commuter Pain survey indicates that drivers in cities around the world are much more unsettled and anxious compared with 2010."

Indeed, 42 percent of respondents said their stress level has increased due to traffic. Twelve cities surveyed in both 2010 and 2011 reported year-over-year increases in respondents who said that roadway traffic has increased their stress levels. Several cities posted substantial increases.

In North America, New Yorkers' stress from driving rose from 10 percent in 2010 to 45 percent in 2011, while stress among drivers in Los Angeles increased from 21 percent to 44 percent and Toronto jumped from 14 percent to 40 percent. In London, the figure rose from 19 percent to 33 percent during the same period, while more than 50 percent of respondents in Mexico City, Milan, Bangalore and Johannesburg reported stress from driving.

In addition, 35 percent of total respondents reported more traffic-related anger; 16 percent each for respiratory problems and less sleep; and 13 percent claimed to have been involved in a traffic-related accident.

Traffic is becoming an increasingly bigger problem outside of "rush hour," with about 40 percent of delays occurring in the mid-day and overnight hours, according to the 2011 Urban Mobility Report, published by the Texas Transportation Institute (TTI) at Texas A&M University. While the cost of the nation's overall road congestion in 2010 was more than $100 billion, or nearly $750 for every commuter in the U.S., delays outside of rush hour are also creating a serious problem for businesses that rely on efficient production and delivery.

"Congestion does more than choke our highways, it chokes our economy, making it harder to buy what we need and harder to keep or find a job," Tim Lomax, one of the TTI study's authors, said in a statement. "That's a bad thing — especially when our economic recovery is so fragile."

And the problem is poised to get worse.

"The economic recession has only provided a temporary respite from the growing congestion problem. When the economic growth returns, the average commuter is estimated to see an additional 3 hours of delay by 2015 and 7 hours by 2020," the TTI said in an announcement of its findings. "By 2015, the cost of gridlock will rise from $101 billion to $133 billion — more than $900 for every commuter, and the amount of wasted fuel will jump from 1.9 billion gallons to 2.5 billion gallons — enough to fill more than 275,000 gasoline tanker trucks."

One glimmer of hope for reducing stress and other emotional effects of traffic is public transportation, which 41 percent of all respondents said they would value the most in this regard. In fact, IBM's findings reveal an increased willingness to use public transportation to improve the commute. Moreover, even though globally only 35 percent of people changed the way that they got to work in the last year, 45 percent of those who have are opting for public transit.

Nevertheless, driving remains the predominant way commuters get to work across all cities (55 percent drive a car, 5 percent carpool and 5 percent drive a motorbike on a worldwide average), while public transportation ranks a distant second (13 percent take a bus and 7 percent a train).

Share your own commuter-pain stories in the comments section below.


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Resources

2009 American Community Survey
U.S. Census Bureau

2011 Global Commuter Pain Survey
IBM, Sept. 8, 2011

Global Commuter Pain Survey: Traffic Congestion Down, Pain Way Up
IBM, Sept. 8, 2011

2011 Urban Mobility Report
Texas Transportation Institute, Sept. 27, 2011

Traffic Problems Ties to the Economy, Study Says
Texas Transportation Institute, Sept. 27, 2011

Infrastructure 2011: A Strategic Priority
Urban Land Institute and Ernst & Young, May 16, 2011

...Strain on U.S. Cities to Maintain Assets and Build Infrastructure Projects as Federal Funding Declines
Urban Land Institute and Ernst & Young, May 16, 2011

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