The daily commute in some of the world's most economically important international cities is longer and more grueling than before imagined, reflecting the failure of transportation infrastructure to keep pace with economic activity, according to IBM's (NYSE: IBM) first global Commuter Pain study released today.
IBM surveyed 8,192 motorists in 20 cities on six continents, the majority of whom say that traffic has gotten worse in the past three years. The congestion in many of today's developing cities is a relatively recent phenomenon, having paralleled the rapid economic growth of those cities during the past decade or two. By contrast, the traffic in places like New York, Los Angeles or London has developed gradually over many decades, giving officials more time and resources to address the problem.
For example, the middle class in China is growing rapidly, with the number of new cars registered in Beijing in the first four months of 2010 rising 23.8% to 248,000, according to the Beijing municipal taxation office. Beijing's total investments in its subway system are projected to be more than 331.2 billion yuan by 2015 as the city expands the system to more than double its current size, according to Beijing Infrastructure Investment Co., Ltd. The city plans to invest 80 billion yuan in 2010 in building its transportation infrastructure.
The study did offer a number of bright spots. Forty eight percent of drivers surveyed in Beijing reported that traffic has improved in the past three years – the high for the survey – reflecting substantial initiatives to improve the transportation network in that city. In addition, the commute for drivers in Stockholm, Sweden seems to be, if not pleasant, then largely pain-free. Only 14% of Stockholm drivers surveyed said that roadway traffic negatively affected work or school performance.
Overall, though, the study paints a picture of metropolitan-area commuters in many cities struggling to get to and from work each day. For example, 57% of all respondents say that roadway traffic has negatively affected their health, but that percentage is 96% in New Delhi and 95% in Beijing.