Richard Florida
by Richard Florida
Fri Jul 2nd 2010 at 4:04pm UTC

The World’s Worst Commutes

Commuting is among life’s least enjoyable activities, according to research by Nobel Prize winner Daniel Kahneman and others. The graph below shows the cities with the worst commutes in the world, according to IBM’s Commuter Pain Index (via Wired).

The city with the world’s worst commute, according to the IBM study, is Beijing, followed by Mexico City, Johannesburg, Moscow, and New Delhi. London, New York, L.A., and my adopted hometown of Toronto also rank in the top 20. Stockholm has the world’s best commute among the 20 cities in the IBM survey.

Commuting is a waste of energy and time, and carries with it enormous economic costs. Commuting costs America an estimated $90 billion dollars per year in terms of lost productivity and wasted energy, according to the annual Urban Mobility Report. Our own detailed calculations by Martin Prosperity Institute (MPI) research director Kevin Stolarick find that every minute shaved off America’s commuting time is worth an estimated $19.5 billion dollars.  That translates into $97.7 billion for five minutes, $195 billion for 10 minutes, and $292 billion for every 15 minutes saved nationally.

The chart below from the IBM study shows the percentage of drivers in each of the 20 surveyed cities who would work more if their commuting time was significantly reduced.

The index is based on IBM surveys of 8,192 motorists in 20 cities across six continents:

The index is comprised of 10 issues: 1) commuting time, 2) time stuck in traffic, agreement that: 3) price of gas is already too high, 4) traffic has gotten worse, 5) start-stop traffic is a problem, 6) driving causes stress, 7) driving causes anger, 8 ) traffic affects work, 9) traffic so bad driving stopped, and 10) decided not to make trip due to traffic.

6 Responses to “The World’s Worst Commutes”

  1. Chris Says:

    I suppose the other half of this equation is to find the answer to what it would cost to reduce that minute of average commute time (i.e. 1 minute = $19.5B). Could it be a platform for municipalities and nations to compete for economic efficiency or does the cost outweigh the benefits given the way we look at things now?

  2. Phillip Says:

    How curious that New York is so low. Driving seemed next to impossible. Does this take into account alternative forms? When I lived there, the subway system got you pretty much anywhere and for the most part, everyone took it. Yet many of the cities listed also have big subway systems, so it can’t be that alone. Of course, it might be that as bad as NY seemed to me, the other cities are worse.

  3. Mike L. Says:

    “Commuting by single-driver car” seems to be the focus of this study. If Tokyo was included it would be among the worst by car, and among the best by rail (according to my own experience).

  4. RichB Says:

    This “study” is basically meaningless. It only includes people who drive to work. Let me guess, the authors were American? I live outside London now and I used to live in California. There is no way that the commute in LA (where everyone has no choice but to slog through traffic, often for more than an hour or two each way) is better than the commute in London (where almost everyone is on the train or Underground). My commute to central London takes an hour door-to-door, but I live out in the countryside, surrounded by farms and pleasant villages. An hour long commute in LA will put you in the middle of a traffic clogged inner-suburban wasteland.

  5. Joanna Says:

    I briefly lived in Moscow and wasn’t surprised to see that it had the 4th worst commute. I would heartily agree, despite never getting in a car there – the metro is by no means always a relaxing, pleasant experience!! I would spend 3 hours commuting a day, and that was not from a home in the countryside by any means.

  6. Francis Says:

    I have not visited most world communities you listed as “The World Worst Commutes”. If per adventure you visit South-Eastern Nigeria, you would agree with me that Nigeria will be #1 in the list of “World Worst Commutes. Of course, one needs good roads, vehicles in good or near good conditions and enforced commute regulations to make any accessment.