Road traffic is back to pre-Covid levels in many cities and some places have become even more congested than before the pandemic. TomTom, a company specialising in location technology and satellite navigation devices, has released its annual traffic index, ranking the world’s most congested cities based on their travel time, fuel costs and CO2 emissions.
Covering 389 cities across 56 countries on 6 continents, TomTom’s Traffic Index ranks cities around the world by their average travel times. Travel times and speeds are based on trip data spanning 543 billion km anonymously collected during the year from drivers within the larger metropolitan area (“metro”) or a 5 km radius from the centre (“city centre”) throughout the complete road network, including fast roads and highways crossing this area.
This year, the index also includes the financial impact of rising fuel costs and congestion due to traffic, along with the fuel/kWh consumption and CO2 emissions when driving petrol, diesel or BEV cars across all 389 cities.
1. London, the slowest city centre to drive in
In 2022, London (city centre) emerged as the slowest city to drive in: on average, Londoners needed 35 minutes to drive 10 kilometres (17 kph). During rush hour, the average speed in London’s city centre was only 13 mph.
2. The rising cost of driving in 2022
Workers have increasingly been heading back to the office, with travel times seeing a rise across 62% of the cities (242 out of 389). With inflation spiking around the globe and the ongoing climate crisis, TomTom looked at the economic and environmental impact of the return to higher traffic levels. Interestingly, despite the rising costs of driving globally, it continues to be a major mode of transport in most cities.
Last year saw an increase in energy prices due to several factors (disrupted supply chains, bad weather, lower investments and the Russian invasion of Ukraine), which greatly exacerbated the situation. With congestion, fuel consumption increased as well, the consequence being that drivers around the world spent 27% more on average to fill up their petrol tanks than in 2021, while those driving diesel cars shelled out 48% more in 2022 than the year before. With fuel prices hitting the roof, Hong Kong became the costliest city to drive in, with more than US$1000 spent by a driver commuting every day at rush hour.
In major European cities, driving an electric vehicle proved to be an effective way of keeping travel costs lower and consistent – even more when charging at fast-charging DC stations. Data shows that in a city like London, EV drivers charging at a slow-charging point saved nearly half of what they would spend driving a combustion engine vehicle that relies on petrol. Moreover, the costs of driving an EV are significantly less volatile, as 2022 showed that prices of fuel can easily fluctuate within the course of a year, while electricity prices are less likely to change as frequently.
3. New working patterns have little impact on the time and money lost in traffic
With the widespread adoption of flexible working arrangements, many workers now have the option to work remotely, adopt a hybrid work schedule or even work flexible hours. With fewer commuters driving to and from work during rush hour each day, one would expect that people spent less time and money stuck in rush-hour traffic. Surprisingly though, the time people lost in global cities to rush-hour traffic only increased over the past year, with as much as 140 hours lost to traffic in Dublin. By teleworking one day a week, a commuter in Dublin would save 56 hours of their time.
The traffic index also shows the impact in CO2 emissions when people drive during rush hour. For example, a Londoner who uses their petrol car every day to go to work emits 1.1tonnes of CO2 per year. By working from home one day a week, that would be reduced by 219 kg emissions.
The cost of traffic jams on the driver’s wallet is also quite significant. In Paris, driving a petrol-powered car during rush hour increases the cost of driving by 40%, compared to driving during optimal times (when traffic is at its lowest). By teleworking one day a week, a Parisian driver would save US$170.