Reporting on pedestrian life in the D.C. area

Picture of the day: IBM's Commuter Pain Index spares D.C.

September 8, 2011 - 03:40 PM
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Never drive in these places ever. (Photo: IBM)

IBM has shed a disturbing spotlight on some of the worst commuting cities in the world, from New York to Nairobi to Mexico City. The results may surprise you — and perhaps we should be thankful that the District wasn't included among the 20 cities, selected from the 65 greatest in size and economic activity. In the report, IBM calls it "a portrait in human pain." It's the company's fourth annual report on the topic and calculated the list from a survey of 8,000 drivers surveyed in their native languages. What emerged truly is an agonizing set of data — and data that puts our commutes in perspective.

We may have breathtakingly atrocious drivers here in D.C., but our town is far from the worst in the world. So take your car-crowded highways and delay-ridden Metro rides in stride.

Interestingly, very few of these cities are even in the U.S. There's L.A., New York, and Chicago, but that's it. The worst tend to be super far away: Mexico City takes the crown, then there's cities like Beijing, Johannesburg, New Delhi, Moscow, and Milan that all have more excruciating commutes that any city in America, including D.C. The IBM report collects many nightmarish facts about the transit hell these people live in. In all the cities, commuting speed ended up at like 23 miles/hour, for instance, due to traffic. In Moscow, 45% of the report's respondents said they'd been stuck in traffic for three hours or more. Commuters ranked stop-and-go traffic as the worst delay of all.

The big takeaway is that outrageous commutes suck away at our spirits. We lose productivity and gain in CO2. No good comes of this. Where might D.C. have fallen among the 20 cities, I wonder, had IBM selected us? I can't imagine it being much worse than New York or L.A. — and hence probably not even close to the 10 worst cities outlined in the IBM report. The public transportation and biking options in D.C. likely help D.C. compared to some of the worst cities examined on IBM's list.

IBM's big recommendation echoes that of Bill Ford in emphasizing the need for smarter technology and data-driven devices to predict traffic and reduce congestion. The wave of the future contains infotainment and wild GPS computers in our cars, according to these people and many more.

Hat tip to the good folks at Gizmodo for pointing out that this terrying list exists.

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