In a 2010 survey, Johannesburg was featured in the top twenty cities with bad commutes. Johannesburg actually ranked in the top five; however, the survey was titled, ‘The Worst Cities for Commuting’ and was less about actual congestion and more about people’s perceptions of that congestion.
Featuring among cities like Istanbul and Mexico City, and even beating London, L.A. and New York City, Johannesburg-ers who brave the traffic everyday clearly believe they have a tough daily commute. It’s probably a source of pride too for a true Jo’burger. Arguably though, since that survey and the completion of the multi-million rand Sanral highways upgrade, congestion and the idea of a nightmare commute, has probably lessened in Gauteng.
If you look at the survey results below, however, two Chinese cities rank in the top three. They are Shenzen and Beijing. You’d be right to think that suggests something of a traffic problem in the fast expanding, far Eastern superpower. In 1977 there were 1 million cars in China; in 2008 there were 51 million; in 2012 there are 85 million cars. That is quite the exponential graph. 38 000 new cars drive onto Chinese roads every day. That means a new car is bought every 2.3 seconds. That would make a McLaren F1 pitstop look slow.
In 2011, the whole of Europe’s car factories produced 16.3 million vehicles, China produced closer to 18 million all on its own. We know China is big, but still, that’s not too bad for a nation that only started manufacturing its own cars just two decades ago. Authorities have even resorted to stopping residents from buying so many cars, mostly in an attempt to reduce pollution and ease traffic, but their efforts are mostly useless. Local reports claim that the daily Chinese driver spends two or three hours per day in traffic.
As you might imagine, some rather catastrophic traffic jams are part and parcel of life on Chinese roads. The worst of which happened back in August 2010, where China was crowned as the unofficial host of the world’s worst traffic jams, thanks to a jam that stretched for more than 100 km and lasted twelve days. The traffic jam was caused by trucks carrying coal to Beijing along the Beijing-Tibet Expressway and it all happened, somewhat ironically, because work was being done on the expressway in order to fix damage from too much traffic. Reports claim that cars were only moving 3.5 km a day. Authorities sent more than 400 police officers into the area to try protect stranded commuters from criminals and vandals overnight.
Surprisingly though, if you Google ‘Guinness World of Records’ and ‘Traffic’, it will say that the worst traffic jam took place in France, spanning from Lyon to Paris. It stretched for 175 km in February 1980. The reason was attributed to poor weather and the huge number of cars on the French Autoroute.
So, to conclude, stop whining about the extra ten minutes you spend in traffic every day when you drop the kids off or make your work commute and take a moment to think about the drivers that had to face twelve days in a traffic jam without water, food and toilets. It could be a lot worse.
Here are the top 20 most congested cities to commute in:
- Mexico City
- New Delhi
- Buenos Aires
- Los Angeles
- New York City