When you’re caught in a traffic jam, you feel powerless. What you may not know is that you can actually have a big effect on the traffic around you.
There is a growing body of research finding that an individual driver, by preventing bottlenecks and maintaining a steady speed, can sometimes single-handedly ease or break up a traffic jam.
The techniques are simple, though some of them—such as leaving a large gap between your car and the one in front and freely letting other drivers cut in—feel counterintuitive to most drivers.
Seattle engineer William Beaty, a leading proponent of jam-busting techniques for individual drivers, illustrated some of them on a ride through rush-hour traffic.
Commuters in Seattle spend an average 66 hours a year stuck in traffic, making it one of 10 U.S. cities with the worst traffic, according to INRIX, a transportation analytics company. Traffic congestion is getting worse in many cities, even as desperate drivers take more active steps to avoid it with apps such as Waze and Google Maps.
As Mr. Beaty merges onto a crowded stretch of Seattle’s I-5, he drives at a steady speed, keeping a space of several car lengths in front of him. “As merging cars come in, I don’t have to slow down, which means that nobody behind me has to slow down,” he says. As he nears an exit, two drivers on his left merge smoothly into the lane in front of him and exit without hitting the brakes.
Meanwhile, the car behind him is just a few feet away. “That’s the tailgating philosophy,” he says. “You push ahead, and you think if everybody would just push ahead, then everyone would go faster,” he says. In fact, “it just turns the road into a parking lot.”
As Mr. Beaty approaches a left-hand exit into downtown Seattle, the center lane is backed up as a few cars struggle to cross over to the exit. “This jam is created by just a few drivers’ getting trapped,” he says. “This is one of the places where an individual driver can wipe out a gigantic jam” by allowing cars to accelerate freely into your lane, he says.
Mr. Beaty, a 58-year-old electrical engineer, has honed his techniques by trial and error, testing various maneuvers on his commute. But researchers at three Chinese universities tested Mr. Beaty’s methods, which they labeled “jam-absorption driving,” and found they can prevent waves of congestion from forming in moving traffic, according to a study published in August. A separate study published last year by Japanese researchers also found Mr. Beaty’s techniques could prevent jams under some conditions.
Mr. Beaty’s recommendations, which he has posted on a website, trafficwaves.org, have been cited in five peer-reviewed academic studies. Seattle residents who have seen his YouTube videos frequently stop him in the street and ask, “Aren’t you the traffic-wave guy?”
Conducting experiments in physics, holography, biology and other fields is a favorite pastime for Mr. Beaty. A former science-exhibit designer who has built robotic dinosaurs and earthquake simulators for museums, he has created his own lab, a rented space filled with half-assembled gadgets, near his home in the funky Georgetown area of Seattle. Mr. Beaty says he has gotten as many as 410,000 hits a week on his main website, Science Hobbyist. His work is a popular source of project ideas among physics students and teachers, says Dan MacIsaac, an associate professor of physics at Buffalo State College, part of the State University of New York.
Mr. Beaty stresses that his observations about traffic aren’t new. “These are things that traffic experts and long-haul truckers have known forever,” he says. Formerly afflicted with road rage himself, he began experimenting with jam-busting techniques years ago, during his 40-minute commute to his job as an engineer on the support staff at the University of Washington’s chemistry department. (His traffic research is unrelated to his day job.) He noticed that traffic congestion forms in waves, like sand or water, and the smallest obstruction, such as one driver swerving or slowing briefly, could trigger a chain reaction of drivers hitting the brakes.
By trying various maneuvers, he found he could sometimes have the opposite effect, allowing backups to drain away. “I saw the jams evaporate,” he says.
His techniques won’t work if you’re already locked in bumper-to-bumper traffic and can’t find anywhere to open a gap, Mr. Beaty says. Also, some congestion is irreducible, when the volume of traffic exceeds the capacity of the road.
It takes a while for his techniques to feel natural, Mr. Beaty acknowledges, and some drivers never see the point. He has been flamed on YouTube and his own website by drivers who insist his techniques are wrong. On the highway, aggressive drivers sometimes race around him and fill the spaces he creates. “Your gut tells you you’re supposed to push ahead,” he says.
Some scientists say Mr. Beaty’s observations are too imprecise to be useful. When a driver tries to maintain a gap between his car and the one ahead, “there’s no way to predict exactly what will happen in the next minute, so you don’t know how much space you need,” says Martin Treiber, chair of the traffic-modeling, econometrics and statistics department at Germany’s Dresden University of Technology and a developer of traffic-flow models illustrating causes and solutions for congestion.
Experts agree, however, that lane-weavers—who force others to slam on the brakes—rubberneckers who pause to gawk at roadside distractions and tailgaters can single-handedly back up traffic for miles. “These are some of the really stupid reasons for traffic being bad,” says Steven Shladover, a manager at the Partners for Advanced Transportation Technology program at the University of California, Berkeley.
As traffic congestion gets worse, some government regulators are embracing traffic-control tools based on the same principles as Mr. Beaty’s techniques. On-ramp stop-and-go lights on some state highways force drivers to leave spaces in front of their cars, for example, and “zipper-merge” rules require drivers in construction zones to open gaps in front of their cars so others can take turns merging smoothly.
Like many traffic experts, Dr. Shladover uses some of Mr. Beaty’s techniques intuitively to smooth traffic flow, but he’s skeptical that many other drivers could be persuaded to do the same. “Selfishness takes hold, and people don’t necessarily think much about the common good,” he says.
Eventually, if large numbers of self-driving cars equipped to maintain uniform speeds and distances between cars take the road, he says, “hopefully most of that nonsense will go away.”
Driver-education schools try to train students to stop tailgating, leave wide gaps between cars and take turns when merging, but “people have to unlearn what they’ve been taught” about standing in line, says Dave Muma, president of the Driving School Association of the Americas, a trade group. “Kids are trained at a very young age that they have to get in line and not let people cut in front of you”—rules that work well on the playground but cause gridlock on the highway, says Mr. Muma, owner of a Holland, Mich., driver-education company.
Mr. Beaty says seeing oneself as a jam-buster has its own rewards. “You’re above it all,” he says. “If you maintain big empty spaces, all these options open up, and you’re actually the superior driver,” free to “be the person who holds the door open for others.”
Write to Sue Shellenbarger at firstname.lastname@example.org
More Work & Family columns
"Traffic jam" redirects here. For other uses, see Traffic jam (disambiguation).
Traffic congestion is a condition on transport networks that occurs as use increases, and is characterized by slower speeds, longer trip times, and increased vehicular queueing. When traffic demand is great enough that the interaction between vehicles slows the speed of the traffic stream, this results in some congestion. While congestion is a possibility for any mode of transportation, this article will focus on automobile congestion on public roads.
As demand approaches the capacity of a road (or of the intersections along the road), extreme traffic congestion sets in. When vehicles are fully stopped for periods of time, this is colloquially known as a traffic jam or traffic snarl-up. Traffic congestion can lead to drivers becoming frustrated and engaging in road rage.
Mathematically, congestion is usually looked at as the number of vehicles that pass through a point in a window of time, or a flow. Congestion flow lends itself to principles of fluid dynamics.
Traffic congestion occurs when a volume of traffic or modal split generates demand for space greater than the available street capacity; this point is commonly termed saturation. There are a number of specific circumstances which cause or aggravate congestion; most of them reduce the capacity of a road at a given point or over a certain length, or increase the number of vehicles required for a given volume of people or goods. About half of U.S. traffic congestion is recurring, and is attributed to sheer weight of traffic; most of the rest is attributed to traffic incidents, road work and weather events.
Traffic research still cannot fully predict under which conditions a "traffic jam" (as opposed to heavy, but smoothly flowing traffic) may suddenly occur. It has been found that individual incidents (such as accidents or even a single car braking heavily in a previously smooth flow) may cause ripple effects (a cascading failure) which then spread out and create a sustained traffic jam when, otherwise, normal flow might have continued for some time longer.
Some traffic engineers have attempted to apply the rules of fluid dynamics to traffic flow, likening it to the flow of a fluid in a pipe. Congestion simulations and real-time observations have shown that in heavy but free flowing traffic, jams can arise spontaneously, triggered by minor events ("butterfly effects"), such as an abrupt steering maneuver by a single motorist. Traffic scientists liken such a situation to the sudden freezing of supercooled fluid.
However, unlike a fluid, traffic flow is often affected by signals or other events at junctions that periodically affect the smooth flow of traffic. Alternative mathematical theories exist, such as Boris Kerner's three-phase traffic theory (see also spatiotemporal reconstruction of traffic congestion).
Because of the poor correlation of theoretical models to actual observed traffic flows, transportation planners and highway engineers attempt to forecast traffic flow using empirical models. Their working traffic models typically use a combination of macro-, micro- and mesoscopic features, and may add matrix entropy effects, by "platooning" groups of vehicles and by randomising the flow patterns within individual segments of the network. These models are then typically calibrated by measuring actual traffic flows on the links in the network, and the baseline flows are adjusted accordingly.
A team of MIT mathematicians has developed a model that describes the formation of "phantom jams," in which small disturbances (a driver hitting the brake too hard, or getting too close to another car) in heavy traffic can become amplified into a full-blown, self-sustaining traffic jam. Key to the study is the realization that the mathematics of such jams, which the researchers call "jamitons," are strikingly similar to the equations that describe detonation waves produced by explosions, says Aslan Kasimov, lecturer in MIT's Department of Mathematics. That discovery enabled the team to solve traffic-jam equations that were first theorized in the 1950s.
Congested roads can be seen as an example of the tragedy of the commons. Because roads in most places are free at the point of usage, there is little financial incentive for drivers not to over-use them, up to the point where traffic collapses into a jam, when demand becomes limited by opportunity cost. Privatization of highways and road pricing have both been proposed as measures that may reduce congestion through economic incentives and disincentives. Congestion can also happen due to non-recurring highway incidents, such as a crash or roadworks, which may reduce the road's capacity below normal levels.
Economist Anthony Downs argues that rush hour traffic congestion is inevitable because of the benefits of having a relatively standard work day. In a capitalist economy, goods can be allocated either by pricing (ability to pay) or by queueing (first-come first-served); congestion is an example of the latter. Instead of the traditional solution of making the "pipe" large enough to accommodate the total demand for peak-hour vehicle travel (a supply-side solution), either by widening roadways or increasing "flow pressure" via automated highway systems, Downs advocates greater use of road pricing to reduce congestion (a demand-side solution, effectively rationing demand), in turn plowing the revenues generated therefrom into public transportation projects.
A 2011 study in The American Economic Review indicates that there may be a "fundamental law of road congestion." The researchers, from the University of Toronto and the London School of Economics, analyzed data from the U.S. Highway Performance and Monitoring System for 1983, 1993 and 2003, as well as information on population, employment, geography, transit, and political factors. They determined that the number of vehicle-kilometers traveled (VKT) increases in direct proportion to the available lane-kilometers of roadways. The implication is that building new roads and widening existing ones only results in additional traffic that continues to rise until peak congestion returns to the previous level.
Qualitative classification of traffic is often done in the form of a six letter A-F level of service (LOS) scale defined in the Highway Capacity Manual, a US document used (or used as a basis for national guidelines) worldwide. These levels are used by transportation engineers as a shorthand and to describe traffic levels to the lay public. While this system generally uses delay as the basis for its measurements, the particular measurements and statistical methods vary depending on the facility being described. For instance, while the percent time spent following a slower-moving vehicle figures into the LOS for a rural two-lane road, the LOS at an urban intersection incorporates such measurements as the number of drivers forced to wait through more than one signal cycle.
Traffic congestion occurs in time and space, i.e., it is a spatiotemporal process. Therefore, another classification schema of traffic congestion is associated with some common spatiotemporal features of traffic congestion found in measured traffic data. Common spatiotemporal empirical features of traffic congestion are those features, which are qualitatively the same for different highways in different countries measured during years of traffic observations. Common features of traffic congestion are independent on weather, road conditions and road infrastructure, vehicular technology, driver characteristics, day time, etc. Examples of common features of traffic congestion are the features [J] and [S] for, respectively, the wide moving jam and synchronized flow traffic phases found in Kerner’s three-phase traffic theory. The common features of traffic congestion can be reconstructed in space and time with the use of the ASDA and FOTO models.
Traffic congestion has a number of negative effects:
- Wasting time of motorists and passengers ("opportunity cost"). As a non-productive activity for most people, congestion reduces regional economic health.
- Delays, which may result in late arrival for employment, meetings, and education, resulting in lost business, disciplinary action or other personal losses.
- Inability to forecast travel time accurately, leading to drivers allocating more time to travel "just in case", and less time on productive activities.
- Wasted fuel increasing air pollution and carbon dioxide emissions owing to increased idling, acceleration and braking.
- Wear and tear on vehicles as a result of idling in traffic and frequent acceleration and braking, leading to more frequent repairs and replacements.
- Stressed and frustrated motorists, encouraging road rage and reduced health of motorists
- Emergencies: blocked traffic may interfere with the passage of emergency vehicles traveling to their destinations where they are urgently needed.
- Spillover effect from congested main arteries to secondary roads and side streets as alternative routes are attempted ('rat running'), which may affect neighborhood amenity and real estate prices.
- Higher chance of collisions due to tight spacing and constant stopping-and-going.
Road rage is aggressive or angry behavior by a driver of an automobile or other motor vehicle. Such behavior might include rude gestures, verbal insults, deliberately driving in an unsafe or threatening manner, or making threats. Road rage can lead to altercations, assaults, and collisions which result in injuries and even deaths. It can be thought of as an extreme case of aggressive driving.
The term originated in the United States in 1987–1988 (specifically, from Newscasters at KTLA, a local television station), when a rash of freeway shootings occurred on the 405, 110 and 10 freeways in Los Angeles, California. These shooting sprees even spawned a response from the AAA Motor Club to its members on how to respond to drivers with road rage or aggressive maneuvers and gestures.
Congestion has the benefit of encouraging motorists to retime their trips so that expensive road space is in full use for more hours per day.
The standard response to congestion is to expand road space somehow, perhaps by widening an existing road or else by adding a new road, bridge or tunnel. However, that could well result in increased traffic flow, otherwise known as induced demand, causing congestion to appear somewhere else. Moreover, Braess' paradox shows that adding road capacity might make congestion worse, even if demand does not increase.
It has been argued that traffic congestion, by reducing road speeds in cities, could reduce the frequency and severity of road accidents.
- Junction improvements
- Reversible lanes, where certain sections of highway operate in the opposite direction on different times of the day(s) of the week, to match asymmetric demand. These pose a potential for collisions, if drivers do not notice the change in direction indicators. This may be controlled by variable-message signs or by movable physical separation
- Separate lanes for specific user groups (usually with the goal of higher people throughput with fewer vehicles)
Urban planning and design
City planning and urban design practices can have a huge impact on levels of future traffic congestion, though they are of limited relevance for short-term change.
- Grid plans including fused grid road network geometry, rather than tree-like network topology which branches into cul-de-sacs (which reduce local traffic, but increase total distances driven and discourage walking by reducing connectivity). This avoids concentration of traffic on a small number of arterial roads and allows more trips to be made without a car.
- Zoning laws that encourage mixed-use development, which reduces distances between residential, commercial, retail, and recreational destinations (and encourage cycling and walking)
- Carfree cities, car-light cities, and eco-cities designed to eliminate the need to travel by car for most inhabitants.
- Transit-oriented development are residential and commercial areas designed to maximize access to public transport by providing a transit station or stop (train station, metro station, tram stop, or bus stop).
Supply and demand
See also: Transportation Demand Management
Congestion can be reduced by either increasing road capacity (supply), or by reducing traffic (demand). Capacity can be increased in a number of ways, but needs to take account of latent demand otherwise it may be used more strongly than anticipated. Critics of the approach of adding capacity have compared it to "fighting obesity by letting out your belt" (inducing demand that did not exist before). For example, when new lanes are created, households with a second car that used to be parked most of the time may begin to use this second car for commuting. Reducing road capacity has in turn been attacked as removing free choice as well as increasing travel costs and times, placing an especially high burden on the low income residents who must commute to work.
Increased supply can include:
- Adding more capacity at bottlenecks (such as by adding more lanes at the expense of hard shoulders or safety zones, or by removing local obstacles like bridge supports and widening tunnels)
- Adding more capacity over the whole of a route (generally by adding more lanes)
- Creating new routes
- Traffic management improvements (see separate section below)
Reduction of demand can include:
- Parking restrictions, making motor vehicle use less attractive by increasing the monetary and non-monetary costs of parking, introducing greater competition for limited city or road space. Most transport planning experts agree that free parking distorts the market in favour of car travel, exacerbating congestion.
- Park and ride facilities allowing parking at a distance and allowing continuation by public transport or ride sharing. Park-and-ride car parks are commonly found at metro stations, freeway entrances in suburban areas, and at the edge of smaller cities.
- Reduction of road capacity to force traffic onto other travel modes. Methods include traffic calming and the shared space concept.
- Road pricing, charging money for access onto a road/specific area at certain times, congestion levels or for certain road users
- "Cap and trade", in which only licensed cars are allowed on the roads. A limited quota of car licences are issued each year and traded in a free market fashion. This guarantees that the number of cars does not exceed road capacity while avoiding the negative effects of shortages normally associated with quotas. However, since demand for cars tends to be inelastic, the result are exorbitant purchase prices for the licenses, pricing out the lower levels of society, as seen Singapore's Certificate of Entitlement scheme.
- Congestion pricing, where a certain area, such as the inner part of a congested city, is surrounded with a cordon into which entry with a car requires payment. The cordon may be a physical boundary (i.e., surrounded by toll stations) or it may be virtual, with enforcement being via spot checks or cameras on the entry routes. Major examples are Singapore's electronic road pricing, the London congestion charge system, Stockholm congestion tax and the use of High-occupancy toll lanes, predominately in North America.
- Road space rationing, where regulatory restrictions prevent certain types of vehicles from driving under certain circumstances or in certain areas.
- Number plate restrictions based on days of the week, as practiced in several large cities in the world, such as Athens,Mexico City, Manila and São Paulo. In effect, such cities are banning a different part of the automobile fleet from roads each day of the week. Mainly introduced to combat smog, these measures also reduce congestion. A weakness of this method is that richer drivers can purchase a second or third car to circumvent the ban.
- Permits, where only certain types of vehicles (such as residents) are permitted to enter a certain area, and other types (such as through-traffic) are banned. For example, Bertrand Delanoë, the mayor of Paris, has proposed to impose a complete ban on motor vehicles in the city's inner districts, with exemptions only for residents, businesses, and the disabled.
- Policy approaches, which usually attempt to provide either strategic alternatives or which encourage greater usage of existing alternatives through promotion, subsidies or restrictions.
- Incentives to use public transport, increasing modal shares. This can be achieved through infrastructure investment, subsidies, transport integration, pricing strategies that decrease the marginal cost/fixed cost ratios, improved timetabling and greater priority for buses to reduce journey time e.g. bus lanes or bus rapid transit .
- Cycling promotion through legislation, cycle facilities, subsidies, and awareness campaigns.The Netherlands has been pursuing cycle friendly policies for decades, and around a quarter of their commuting is done by bicycle.
- Promotion of more flexible work place practices. For example, a flexible workplaces pilot was undertaken in Brisbane, Australia during 2009 to test the applicability of a voluntary travel behaviour change program to achieve transport system outcomes, particularly as they related to managing congestion, either through mode shift or peak spreading. During the one-month Pilot, amongst almost 900 Brisbane CBD workers across 20 private and public sector organisations, shifts of more than 30% out of the morning and afternoon peak travel was recorded.
- Telecommuting encouraged through legislation and subsidies.
- Online shopping promotion, potentially with automated delivery booths helping to solve the last mile problem and reduce shopping trips made by car.
Use of so-called Intelligent transportation system, which guide traffic:
- School opening times arranged to avoid rush hour traffic (in some countries, private car school pickup and drop-off traffic are substantial percentages of peak hour traffic).
- Considerate driving behaviour promotion and enforcement. Driving practices such as tailgating and frequent lane changes can reduce a road's capacity and exacerbate jams. In some countries signs are placed on highways to raise awareness, while others have introduced legislation against inconsiderate driving.
- Visual barriers to prevent drivers from slowing down out of curiosity (often called "rubbernecking" in the United States). This often includes accidents, with traffic slowing down even on roadsides physically separated from the crash location. This also tends to occur at construction sites, which is why some countries have introduced rules that motorway construction has to occur behind visual barrier
- Speed limit reductions, as practiced on the M25 motorway in London. With lower speeds allowing cars to drive closer together, this increases the capacity of a road. Note that this measure is only effective if the interval between cars is reduced, not the distance itself. Low intervals are generally only safe at low speeds.
- Lane splitting/filtering, in which some jurisdictions allow motorcycles, scooters and bicycles to travel in the space between cars, buses, and trucks.
- Reduction of road freight avoiding problems such as double parking with innovative solutions including cargo bicycles and Gothenburg's Stadsleveransens.
Traffic during peak hours in major Australian cities, such as Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth, is usually very congested and can cause considerable delay for motorists. Australians rely mainly on radio and television to obtain current traffic information. GPS, webcams, and online resources are increasingly being used to monitor and relay traffic conditions to motorists.
Traffic jams have become intolerable in Dhaka. Some other major reasons are the total absence of a rapid transit system; the lack of an integrated urban planning scheme for over 30 years; poorly maintained road surfaces, with potholes rapidly eroded further by frequent flooding and poor or non-existent drainage; haphazard stopping and parking; poor driving standards; total lack of alternative routes, with several narrow and (nominally) one-way roads.
According to Time magazine, São Paulo has the world's worst daily traffic jams. Based on reports from the Companhia de Engenharia de Tráfego, the city's traffic management agency, the historical congestion record was set on May 23, 2014, with 344 kilometres (214 mi) of cumulative queues around the city during the evening rush hour. The previous record occurred on November 14, 2013, with 309 kilometres (192 mi) of cumulative queues.
Despite implementation since 1997 of road space rationing by the last digit of the plate number during rush hours every weekday, traffic in this 20-million-strong city still experiences severe congestion. According to experts, this is due to the accelerated rate of motorization occurring since 2003 and the limited capacity of public transport. In São Paulo, traffic is growing at a rate of 7.5% per year, with almost 1,000 new cars bought in the city every day. The subway has only 61 kilometres (38 mi) of lines, though 35 further kilometers are under construction or planned by 2010. Every day, many citizens spend between three up to four hours behind the wheel. In order to mitigate the aggravating congestion problem, since June 30, 2008 the road space rationing program was expanded to include and restrict trucks and light commercial vehicles.
According to the Toronto Board of Trade, in 2010, Toronto is ranked as the most congested city of 19 surveyed cities, with an average commute time of 80 minutes.
The August 2010 China National Highway 110 traffic jam in Hebei province, China, is considered the world's worst traffic jam, as traffic congestion stretched more than 100 kilometres (62 mi) from August 14 to the 26, including at least 11 days of total gridlock. The event was caused by a combination of road works and thousands of coal trucks from Inner Mongolia’s coalfields that travel daily to Beijing. The New York Times has called this event the "Great Chinese Gridlock of 2010."
The city of Beijing started a license plate rationing since the 2008 Summer Olympics whereby each car is banned from the urban core one workday per week, depending on the last digit of its licence plate. As of 2016, 11 major Chinese cities have implemented similar policies. Towards the end of 2010, Beijing announced a series of drastic measures to tackle the city's chronic traffic congestion, such as limiting the number of new plates issued to passenger cars to 20,000 a month, barring vehicles with non-Beijing plates from entering areas within the Fifth Ring Road during rush hours and expanding its subway system. In addition, more than nine major Chinese cities including Shanghai, Guangzhou and Hangzhou started limiting the number of new plates issued to passenger cars in an attempt to curb the growth of car ownership. In response to the increased demand to public transit caused by these policies, aggressive programs to rapidly expand public transport systems in many Chinese cities are currently underway.
See also: Chunyun
A unique Chinese phenomenon of severe traffic congestion occurs during Chunyun Period or Spring Festival travel season. It is a long-held tradition for most Chinese people to reunite with their families during Chinese New Year. People return to their hometown to have a reunion dinner with their families on Chinese New Year. It has been described as the largest annual human migration in the world. Since the economic boom and rapid urbanization of China since the late 1970s, many people work and study a considerable distance from their hometowns. Traffic flow is typically directional, with large amounts of the population working in more developed coastal provinces needing travel to their hometowns in the less developed interior. The process reverses near the end of Chunyun. With almost 3 billion trips made in 40 days of the 2016 Chunyun Period, the Chinese intercity transportation network is extremely strained during this period.
The number of vehicles in India is quickly increasing as a growing middle class can now afford to buy cars. As a result, India has launched various rapid transit efforts, such as the Kolkata Metro, in Kolkata, and the Rapid Metro, in Gurgaon.
India's road conditions are expanding and improving in proportion with the increase in vehicle numbers. Kerala is a small southern state having the above characteristics. Its roads are around 30m wide, less than the average width of major highways in the nation (45 m), though the roads in Kerala are better surfaced and maintained. This causes considerable difficulty to the road users and causes frequent mishaps, though road discipline and adherence to traffic rules (and enforcement) are considered better in Kerala.
Various causes for this include:
- Private encroachments
- Commercial / religious establishment's location hampering road expansion, and rampant lobbying for this
- Unscientific road design
- Lack of free ways / exit ways where local roads and main roads intersect
- Lack of demarcated foot paths
- Lack of bus bays
- Lack of cycle tracks
- Lack of coordination among various government departments (e.g. digging of roads by telecom/water department and leaving it open)
According to a 2015 study by motor oil company Castrol, Jakarta is found to be the worst city in the world for traffic congestion. Relying on information from TomTom navigation devices in 78 countries, the index found that drivers are stopping and starting their cars 33,240 times per year on the road. After Jakarta, the worst cities for traffic are Istanbul, Mexico City, Surabaya, and St. Petersburg.
Daily congestion in Jakarta is not a recent problem. The expansion of commercial area shows worsening daily congestion in Jalan Jendral Sudirman, Jalan Thamrin, and Jalan Gajah Mada in mid 1970s.
In 2016, 12 people died as a result of traffic congestion in Java. They were among those stuck in a three-day traffic jam at an intersection in Java called 'Brexit'. The traffic block stretched for 21 km here and thousands of cars clogged the highway. Many people died because of carbon monoxide poisoning, fatigue or heat.
New Zealand has followed strongly car-oriented transport policies since after World War II (especially in Auckland, where one third of the country's population lives, is New Zealand's most traffic congested city, and has been labelled worse than New York for traffic congestion with commuters sitting in traffic congestion for 95 hours per year), and currently has one of the highest car-ownership rates per capita in the world, after the United States. Traffic congestion in New Zealand is increasing with drivers on New Zealand's motorways reported to be struggling to exceed 20 kph on an average commute, sometimes crawling along at 8 kph for more than half an hour.
Further information: Traffic in Metro Manila
According to a survey by Waze, traffic congestion in Metro Manila is called the "worst" in the world, after Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo, and Jakarta. It is worsened by violations of traffic laws, like illegal parking, loading and unloading, beating the red light, and wrong-way driving. Traffic congestion in Metro Manila is caused by the large number of registered vehicles, lack of roads, and overpopulation, especially on Manila, Pateros and Caloocan. Traffic caused losses of ₱137,500,000,000 on the economy in 2011, and unbuilt roads and railway projects also causes worsening congestion. The Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) feared that daily economic losses will reach Php 6,000,000,000 by 2030 if traffic congestion cannot be controlled.
In recent years, the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality has made huge investments on intelligent transportation systems and public transportation. Despite that, traffic is a significant problem in İstanbul. İstanbul has chosen the second most congested and the most sudden-stopping traffic in the world. Travel times in Turkey’s largest city take on average 55 percent longer that they should, even in relatively less busy hours.
In the United Kingdom the inevitability of congestion in some urban road networks has been officially recognized since the Department for Transport set down policies based on the report Traffic in Towns in 1963:
Even when everything that it is possibly to do by way of building new roads and expanding public transport has been done, there would still be, in the absence of deliberate limitation, more cars trying to move into, or within our cities than could possibly be accommodated.
The Department for Transport sees growing congestion as one of the most serious transport problems facing the UK. On 1 December 2006, Rod Eddington published a UK government-sponsored report into the future of Britain's transport infrastructure. The Eddington Transport Study set out the case for action to improve road and rail networks, as a "crucial enabler of sustained productivity and competitiveness". Eddington has estimated that congestion may cost the economy of England £22 bn a year in lost time by 2025. He warned that roads were in serious danger of becoming so congested that the economy would suffer. At the launch of the report Eddington told journalists and transport industry representatives introducing road pricing to encourage drivers to drive less was an "economic no-brainer". There was, he said "no attractive alternative". It would allegedly cut congestion by half by 2025, and bring benefits to the British economy totalling £28 bn a year.
A congestion charge for driving in central London was introduced in 2003. In 2013, ten years later, Transport for London reported that the scheme resulted in a 10% reduction in traffic volumes from baseline conditions, and an overall reduction of 11% in vehicle kilometres in London. Despite these gains, traffic speeds in central London became progressively slower.
The Texas Transportation Institute estimated that, in 2000, the 75 largest metropolitan areas experienced 3.6 billion vehicle-hours of delay, resulting in 5.7 billion U.S. gallons (21.6 billion liters) in wasted fuel and $67.5 billion in lost productivity, or about 0.7% of the nation's GDP. It also estimated that the annual cost of congestion for each driver was approximately $1,000 in very large cities and $200 in small cities. Traffic congestion is increasing in major cities and delays are becoming more frequent in smaller cities and rural areas.
30% of traffic is cars looking for parking.
According to traffic analysis firm INRIX in 2013, the top 65 worst US traffic congested cities (measured in average hours wasted per vehicle for the year) were:
- Los Angeles, California: 64.4 hours
- Honolulu, Hawaii: 59.5 hours
- San Francisco, California: 56.1 hours
- New York, New York: 52.9 hours
- Bridgeport, Connecticut: 42.1 hours
- Austin, Texas: 41.2 hours
- Houston, Texas: 40.6 hours
- Washington, D.C.: 40.3 hours
- Boston, Massachusetts: 37.9 hours
- Seattle, Washington: 37.1 hours
- San Jose, California: 34.7 hours
- Chicago, Illinois: 34.2 hours
- Dallas, Texas: 33.5 hours
- El Paso, Texas: 32.6 hours
- Denver, Colorado: 31.7 hours
- New Haven, Connecticut: 31.2 hours
- Fort Worth, Texas: 30.6 hours
- Albuquerque, New Mexico: 29.3 hours
- Detroit, Michigan: 28.5 hours
- Colorado Springs, Colorado: 26.8 hours
- St. Louis, Missouri: 25.6 hours
- Indianapolis, Indiana: 24.9 hours
- Baltimore, Maryland: 23.4 hours
- Las Vegas, Nevada: 22.1 hours
- Salt Lake City, Utah: 21.9 hours
- Lubbock, Texas: 21.5 hours
- Provo, Utah: 21.2 hours
- Aurora, Colorado: 20.7 hours
- New Orleans, Louisiana: 20.2 hours
- Arlington, Texas: 19.8 hours
- Hartford, Connecticut: 19.6 hours
- Miami, Florida: 19.5 hours
- Tampa, Florida: 19.4 hours
- Daytona Beach, Florida: 19.2 hours
- Boise, Idaho: 18.7 hours
- Rio Rancho, New Mexico: 18.4 hours
- Wichita, Kansas: 18.1 hours
- Mobile, Alabama: 17.6 hours;
- Fort Collins, Colorado: 16.9 hour
- Kansas City, Missouri: 16.7 hours
- Columbia, Missouri: 16.3 hours
- Abilene, Texas: 16.1 hours
- Sacramento, California: 15.8 hours
- Midland, Texas: 15.4 hours
- Westminster, Colorado: 14.7 hours
- Plano, Texas: 14.5 hours
- Temple, Texas: 14.2 hours
- Loveland, Colorado: 13.8 hours
- Amarillo, Texas: 13.2 hours
- Odessa, Texas: 12.8 hours
- San Antonio, Texas: 12.7 hours
- Galveston, Texas: 12.6 hours
- Golden, Colorado: 12.3 hours
- Greeley, Colorado: 11.8 hours
- Santa Barbara, California: 11.6 hours
- Anchorage, Alaska: 10.9 hours
- Olympia, Washington: 10.7 hours
- Harrisburg, Pennsylvania: 10.6 hours
- Columbus, Ohio: 10.4 hours
- Portland, Oregon: 10.2 hours
- Redding, California: 9.8 hours
- Frederick, Maryland: 9.7 hours
- Castle Rock, Colorado: 9.6 hours
- Frisco, Texas: 9.4 hour
- Trenton, New Jersey: 9.3 hours
The most congested highway in the United States, according to a 2010 study of freight congestion (truck speed and travel time), is Chicago's Interstate 290 at the Circle Interchange. The average truck speed was just 29 mph (47 km/h).