Mumbai, Bengaluru and New Delhi among world’s worst for traffic congestion in 2020: report

Published : January 21, 2021 16:57 IST

At a traffic jam near AIIMS in New Delhi, a file photo. Photo: PTI / Manvender Vashist

Mumbai, Bengaluru and New Delhi were among the top 10 cities worldwide in terms of traffic congestion in 2020 despite congestion levels witnessing an abrupt halt owing to the COVID-induced lockdowns, a report has found.

According to the 2020 TomTom Traffic Index, Moscow leads the world in terms of traffic congestion with 54 per cent, displacing Bengaluru – which had taken the top spot in 2019 and is now in sixth place with 51 per cent. Mumbai is tied at second place (53 per cent) alongside capital cities Bogota of Colombia and Manila of the Philippines. New Delhi is in eighth position with 47 per cent. The only other Indian city to feature in the index is Pune at 16th place with 42 per cent.

The 2020 TomTom Traffic Index, devised by Amsterdam-based location technology provider TomTom International BV, used data from 600 million connected devices to provide detailed insights on traffic congestion levels in 416 cities from 57 countries across six continents, ranking them from the most to the least congested. The index divides cities into three categories based on population – those with over 800,000 people are termed Large cities, whereas Small cities fall below that threshold. Further, Megacities are a subset of Large cities with a population of over 8 million. By that measure, the index comprised 207 Large cities (including 28 Megacities) and 209 Small cities.

The index calculates congestion in percentage terms. For instance, Mumbai has a congestion level of 53 per cent this year, which would mean that a trip taken in the city would take 53 per cent more time than it would during Mumbai’s baseline uncongested conditions. This baseline, calculated for each city by analysing free-flow travel times of all vehicles on the entire road network throughout the year, would mean a 30-minute trip in Mumbai would take an additional time of 0.53 x 30 minutes = 15.9 minutes viz. a total average travel time of 45.9 minutes in congested conditions.

Last year, Bengaluru had been ranked first with highest congestion levels globally (71 per cent), while Mumbai (65 per cent), Pune (59 per cent) and New Delhi (56 per cent) had all featured in the top 10. Mumbai had topped the rankings previously in 2017 (65 per cent) and 2018 (66 per cent).

In 2020, 387 out of 416 cities witnessed a significant decrease in congestion by an average of 21 per cent. That percentage went up to 28 per cent during rush hours, bucking the trend that had seen congestion rise year-on-year by 2 to 3 per cent. The most significant drop in congestion levels was in April when many countries were already under lockdown. That month, 276 cities experienced at least 20 days of low traffic, where congestion levels were at least 50 per cent lower than the corresponding day in 2019.

Ralf-Peter Schäfer, TomTom’s Vice President of Traffic and Travel, said: “Last year, we announced that global congestion levels in 2019 had increased for the ninth consecutive Traffic Index. In 2020, we saw a vastly different picture. From lockdowns to closed borders, people movement changed – and it changed very fast.”

Congestion is considered as an indicator of a strong economy, but it has a major downside in terms of the environmental impact such as increased pollution levels, not to mention the additional time cost that commuters bear. The index pointed out that COVID-19 could change traffic forever if countries would “embrace a shift in mobility” and “take a new path towards a safer, cleaner, and congestion-free future” going forward.

Schäfer added, “Although traffic congestion was down in 2020, it’s not going to become a trend unless we take action. We might even see traffic levels shoot up again as people get back to work and back into old routines. That’s why now is the time that city planners, policy makers, employers – and drivers – must take stock of what they will do to make the roads less congested in the future.”

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