An early version of the TomTom Traffic Index and TomTom City websites
Q: Why did TomTom create the Traffic Index?
A: One of the main reasons why we started publishing the Traffic Index was to help people understand when and where the worst congestion and delays occur, so they could make better choices about when and how they travelled. Initially, our focus was on reaching individual drivers and encouraging them to think about how they could reduce the amount of time they spend in traffic.
As TomTom started expanding into the automotive and enterprise markets, we broadened that core message because we weren’t just addressing consumers anymore, we were also talking to governments, automakers and all other kinds of businesses that rely on traffic information.
Today, our aim is to provide everyone – whether it’s citizens or city planners, business leaders or policymakers – with objective, authoritative traffic information, which they can use to help reduce congestion, improve road safety and lower emissions.
Q: How long does it take to prepare the Traffic Index each year, and what goes into that process?
A: Every year is different, but it usually takes us about three months to put everything together. We start by analyzing the data, which is continually collected by TomTom across the year. The main metrics we look at are congestion levels, time spent driving in rush hour and kilometers driven. Then, we work with design and development teams to visualize the data and prepare the main Traffic Index portal and all the individual city pages.
Obviously, 2020 was not an ordinary year, and that changed the process considerably. We’ve worked on this report for almost the entire year! We’ve analyzed a lot more data and gone much deeper into it than ever before. In fact, we were analyzing congestion information almost continuously because the traffic situation across the world was changing so quickly. The result is that this year’s report includes much more granular detail. For instance, we’ve looked at individual days where congestion levels were exceptionally low compared to 2019. We’ve also analyzed daily commute patterns to see how traffic at peak hours has fluctuated in each city.
Q: What else has been different in 2020?
A: The focal point of the Traffic Index is the city ranking that shows which cities around the world have the worst levels of congestion. We wanted to keep this as our central element but seeing as 2020 has been such an anomaly in terms of traffic flows, we wanted to present the data somewhat differently. For example, it didn’t make sense to showcase cities that improved their congestion levels – like we’ve done in past years – because almost all cities worldwide (with a few exceptions) have seen a reduction in traffic compared to 2019 due to lockdowns and restrictions on movement.
For 2020, our aim was to focus on the ways in which traffic has changed because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and to highlight some of the most interesting events from this year.
Q: What were some of the most memorable stories that came out of 2020? Was there anything that really surprised you?
A: It was really striking to see the mass exodus of people from capitals across Europe when new lockdowns were announced, and how that was reflected in the traffic. The day before Greece’s second lockdown was the most congested day in Athens in 2020. Meanwhile, in Paris, we saw traffic jams reach a record length of 700km on the day before the city introduced new lockdown measures.