TomTom have once again released their meaningless congestion index.
TomTom has announced the results of the TomTom Traffic Index 2013, revealing New Zealanders waste up to 93 hours a year stuck in traffic and that Wellingtonian’s experienced the worst traffic delays during peak hours, spending up to an extra 41 minutes in an hour commute. The Index also revealed that traffic congestion on non-highways is worse than main roads.
The regional results of the Index covers 9 major cities across Australia & New Zealand, with Sydney listed as the most congested city in the region, followed by Auckland and Wellington.
- Sydney 34%
- Auckland 29%
- Wellington 28%
- Melbourne 27%
- Perth 27%
- Christchurch 26%
- Adelaide 25%
- Brisbane 23%
- Canberra 17%
According to the TomTom Traffic Index, Friday morning is the least congested time to commute in New Zealand. The most congested commute was found to be Tuesday morning, and Thursday evening.
There were no cities from our region featured in the top 10 most congested global cities. Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch ranked 22nd, 25th and 42nd respectively in the world’s most congested cities list.
The ranking by overall congestion level in 2013 were:
- Moscow 74%
- Istanbul 62%
- Rio de Janeiro 55%
- Mexico City 54%
- São Paulo 46%
- Palermo 39%
- Warsaw 39%
- Rome 37%
- Los Angeles 36%
- Dublin 35%
“The TomTom Traffic Index gives us a great insight into the state of our traffic network. By providing an accurate analysis of traffic flow and guiding traffic away from congested areas, TomTom plays a key role in helping to ease congestion, improving the traffic flow for the cities,” said Phil Allen, TomTom Maps and Traffic Licensing, SE Asia and Oceania.
It’s meaningless for a number of reasons including:
1. It measures the difference in speed between free flow and congested periods. That means cities with lots of all day congestion there isn’t as much of a difference between peak and off peak times and therefore they get recorded as having less congestion.
2. It doesn’t take into account the speeds at which roads most efficiently move traffic – which is not in free flow conditions. This is something picked up on in research conducted for the NZTA by Ian Wallis and Associates
Various definitions of congestion were reviewed and it was found that the concept of congestion is surprisingly ill-defined. A definition commonly used by economists treats all interactions between vehicles as congestion, while a common engineering definition is based on levels of service and recognises congestion only when the road is operating near or in excess of capacity. A definition of congestion based on the road capacity (ie the maximum sustainable flow) was adopted. The costs of congestion on this basis are derived from the difference between the observed travel times and estimated travel times when the road is operating at capacity.
The graph below shows the engineering definition mentioned above.
3. It doesn’t represent all trips on the transport network. We know that even though only about 10% of all trips to work (which excludes trips for education) are made via PT, it still represents a lot of people. For trips to the City Centre more than half of the people arrive by means other than a private vehicle and many of the PT users arrive via the train, ferry or a bus that has travelled along bus lanes. The people on those services or walking/cycling are doing so often completely free of congestion and so their experience isn’t counted.
4. The data only comes from people with a TomTom device and who have obviously had it on. Many people making the same trip on a daily basis or running a regular errand like going to a supermarket are likely to simply leave their GPS systems off. That is likely to distort the overall figures as they may use routes that have less congestion on them than the route the GPS would select.
5. It can disproportionately impact on smaller cities. As an example if you’re in a larger city and have a 45 minute commute however congestion delays you by 30 minutes that equates to a 67% congestion rate however if you are in a smaller city and you’re commute is only 15 minutes and you get delayed by 15 minutes that’s a 100% delay despite the hold up being half of what the bigger city experienced.
It’s starting to get a bit old now however there’s a good piece on the issues with the methodology in this piece from Reuters, some of which is covered above.
Lastly in the email I received about it they also mentioned this
Of the 138 countries surveyed for the Traffic Index, a global average congestion rate of 26% was recorded, placing New Zealand above the average with a rate of 28%. To put things in perspective, Wellington and Auckland even beat out New York City (39th) in the global rankings, a thriving metropolis of 8.4 million.
So we have worse congestion than New York, a city where the majority get around by methods other than a car and who in recent years has been reclaiming road space for pedestrians, cyclists and buses. Perhaps we should do more of that.
Lastly if we really want to move people around then then the Congestion Free Network would allow people to do that completely free of congestion giving some real choice.