The Ripple Effect of Traffic Congestion
Published by Pavel Ševera on
No one likes to be stuck on a heavily congested road, as often happens nowadays. Sitting in traffic is inconvenient and frustrating, but it also contributes to increased commute times and lowered productivity. While these issues may seem reason enough to address the congestion problem in cities, there are even bigger problems to be aware of. Just one traffic jam can have a significant ripple effect on cities and negatively impact countless aspects of human travel and life.
Perhaps the most obvious impact of congestion is traffic delays. It’s likely that the moment you find yourself stuck in traffic, your immediate thought is time. How much time will this take? How will this affect my schedule? Will I be late to work? Time is of the essence, particularly in major cities where specific times of day are almost guaranteed to face congestion.
The morning and afternoon rush hour involve thousands of people trying to get to and from school, work, and other necessary activities. With so many people trying to travel at one time, there's pretty much a guarantee of traffic. Consequently, individuals waste hours in the car, leaving them late for work and frustrated before their day has even started.
Bogota, the Columbian capital, is reported to lose 191 hours per commuter each year due to gridlock. That's 191 hours that could be spent working, relaxing, or spending time with family - essentially anything other than sitting in a car.
These delays have a ripple effect on the morale and productivity of a city's commuters. If drivers are unable to get from A to B efficiently, the entire city is stuck waiting for a traffic jam to clear up, which does not bode well for a city's productivity and economic success.
Unpredictable Travel Times
Congestion also significantly impedes the predictability of travel within a city. Commuters rely upon the predictability of traffic and the time it takes to get from one location to another. If there are constantly unexpected delays, these drivers lose the ability to estimate travel times.
Consequently, drivers lose more time in their day trying to get ahead of and anticipate congestion. Public transportation vehicles also lose the ability to stay on schedule, rendering hundreds if not thousands of travellers inconvenienced.
This dilemma is particularly concerning for emergency vehicles. If ambulances or police vehicles can't predict travel times, it can pose a serious risk for those in danger. Plus, considerable congestion takes away from these vehicles' ability to manoeuvre cities, further risking the lives of citizens.
The more congestion that drivers experience, the more frustrated they become, leading to cases of road rage. When drivers are late for work or frustrated with traffic, they may begin to exhibit dangerous driving behaviours, such as speeding, cutting other drivers off, or tailgating. All of these actions can significantly endanger road users, increasing safety risks for all.
Additionally, congestion also leads drivers to stop paying attention to the road. Once a driver gets into the pattern of moving a couple of feet every few minutes, they may begin to do so without really looking at the road. Consequently, they're much more likely to rear-end or hit another vehicle.
Often congestion is not drivers sitting stationary in their cars for hours but rather a constant stopping and starting. Doing this burns fuel at a dramatically higher rate than if a car were to drive continuously. Not only does this force drivers to buy fuel more often, but it also significantly raises a city's contribution to emissions released by vehicles. These emissions create harmful air pollution that further contributes to global warming.
The more harmful emissions a city produces, the worse its environmental standing is. Consequently, a single city could be harming not only its residents but the global population.
To put it in perspective, in 2021, 15% of London's total CO2 emissions were attributed to traffic congestion - making up 2.2 megatons of CO2. To offset the environmental damage of these emissions would require a forest of trees the same size as Sydney, Australia. There's no question that if congestion continues to contribute to the environment in this way, global warming will be expedited further bringing unprecedented consequences.
Another significant effect of congestion is cost. The American Transportation Research Institute approximates that the cost of congestion in the freight sector is $74.1 billion, with $66.1 billion attributed to congestion in urban areas. While these costs are already astonishing, they don't even include the costs of pollution and accidents that occur due to congestion.
In 2019, New York City was found to have the highest economic losses out of any U.S. city, totalling up to $11 billion. As a city notorious for its traffic jams, these numbers aren't surprising.
While financial costs are a significant concern for urban areas struggling with congestion, money is only the tip of the iceberg in losses they could face - including time, lives, and air quality. Still, money is of considerable concern. Fortunately, the cost of reducing congestion is far less than the cost of letting it impact your city.
The Solution to Traffic Congestion
The ripple effect that congestion has on cities is immense and harrowing. Fortunately, some smart cities have found a way to reduce congestion (and consequently, these issues), as well as improve traffic and travel as a whole. With real-time traffic monitoring and traffic control, urban areas can drastically reduce congestion and its impacts.
Real-time traffic monitoring technology can capture highly accurate traffic data to be turned into traffic analytics. These analytics provide cities with real-time detection, classification, and traffic tracking - all of which contribute to efficient traffic management and, thus effective congestion prevention.
By simply changing how cities monitor their roads, they can begin working to better control traffic. Consequently, they can make travel safer and more efficient for drivers, creating a positive ripple effect of productivity, efficiency, and safety.
If you're interested in learning more about GoodVision's real-time solution for traffic monitoring and traffic control,