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SA’s traffic woes are real, but not the worst in the world

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Traffic is a pain, particularly when the weather and traffic light failures exacerbate the plight of millions of people trying to get to and from work in South Africa’s urban areas. These people will not be surprised to discover the Johannesburg is the country’s most congested city, but that Cape Town has a far worse traffic problem.

SAs traffic woes are real

According to the INRIX 2018 Global Traffic Scorecard, Johannesburg was South Africa most congested city in 2018, and commuters sat in traffic roughly 119 hours a year – or nearly five days.

While Capetonians lost more hours to traffic than Johannesburg at 162 hours - the most in South Africa - the report noted that rush-hour congestion in Johannesburg was often worse than in Cape Town.

Congestion is defined as the demand for road space exceeding supply, but INRIX changed its congestion methodology this year compared to the one used in 2017. Last year’s scorecard calculated hours lost to congestion, but this year’s analysed not only time lost but also the severity of congestion. The 2018 scorecard ranked congestion and mobility trends in more than 200 cities across 38 countries.  

While South Africans can reliably express their disgust at our congestion levels, we were a far cry from the top 10. Moscow was named the most congested city in the world for the second year in a row with 210 hours lost annually to congestion per person, and Istanbul came in second with 157 hours lost. Bogota came in third with 272 hours lost, the most hours lost per commuter around the world.

Bogota is followed by Mexico City and São Paulo. The dominance of Latin American cities should not be a surprise due to their rapid urbanisation and high levels of informal settlements. The rest of the top 10 was made up of London, Rio de Janeiro, Boston, Saint Petersburg, and Rome.

When it comes to hours lost in congestion, eight of the top 10 cities globally are European. This is mainly as a result of the age of their infrastructure. Roads in cities like Rome, Paris, London and Milan can be traced back to the Roman period, which means that cars are driving into neighbourhoods which were designed for horses and walking. 

Boston was the only US representative in the top 10 most congested cities in the world. According to the study, Americans lost an average of 97 hours a year due to congestion, costing them nearly $87 billion in 2018, an average of $1,348 per driver.

The report shows that most big cities in the world suffer from frustrating congestion of one kind or another, so those looking to avoid traffic jams should move to one of the lowest densities of traffic congestion: Waterloo in Canada, Wichita and Tulsa in the US, Cordoba in Spain and Saskatoon in Canada.

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