The TomTom Traffic Index: An objective measure of urban traffic congestion
Nick Cohn·Oct 22, 2019

The TomTom Traffic Index: An objective measure of urban traffic congestion

Nick Cohn
Sr. Product Manager
Oct 22, 2019 · 6 min read
TomTom Traffic Index: Measuring Urban Traffic Congestion | TomTom Newsroom

More than a decade ago, during my first years at TomTom, we were dreaming of the moment when we could measure traffic congestion as it happened, on a global scale.

Today, from traffic in Boston to Bucharest; Pittsburgh to Pune; Santiago to San Francisco, not only do we see changes in circulation within seconds, but also identify traffic patterns with incredible accuracy courtesy of ten years of historical traffic data archived in a secure, private database of 48 trillion data points.

We use this information to make the journeys of hundreds of millions of drivers faster and easier every day. And you can too.

Now in its eighth year, the TomTom Traffic Index gives everyone free access to traffic statistics in 403 cities in 56 countries around the world – the highest coverage for a report of its kind. On the one hand, it encourages drivers to make more informed choices about when and how they travel. On the other hand, it provides industry and policymakers with reliable information about congestion levels in urban areas, therefore enabling them to make better mobility decisions for themselves and their citizens.

Using traffic information can ease traffic congestion and reduce emissions as a result. This year, our traffic report offers even more insight into why our cities are congested, putting the issue into context and offering ideas on how the problem can be alleviated now and in the future.

Using traffic information can ease traffic congestion and reduce emissions as a result.

Nick Cohn

Senior Product Manager, TomTom

On the TomTom Traffic Index website, a rich variety of city-by-city traffic information will enable you to monitor live traffic, identify areas with problems, examine what causes bottlenecks and influence the way people drive in order to reduce congestion, optimize traffic flow and improve air quality.

While using the same methodology and statistics as our previous reports, the newest TomTom Traffic Index uses four times more data in most cities, making it even more robust and reliable. In Mexico City, the number is 1500 times higher than in the previous report! Its coverage has also expanded, with 13 new cities in India, Japan, Egypt, Colombia, Peru, Ukraine, Israel and Iceland having been added this year.

Global congestion is on the rise

Traffic congestion has gone up globally in the last decade. Even with cities around the world working hard to optimize their road network performance, nearly 75% of the cities included in the TomTom Traffic Index report had either increased or stable congestion levels between 2017 and 2018.

The most congested cities are Mumbai in India, with 65% extra time spent in traffic by its drivers, closely followed by Bogota in Colombia (63%), Lima in Peru (58%), New Delhi in India (58%) and Moscow in Russia (56%).

While this may seem disheartening, we see cities taking massive leaps in dealing with this challenge. Some of the most congested cities in the world may also be the ones working hardest to improve public transport and use the technology available today to monitor and optimize their network performance.

In India, a massive national smart city program is under development. In Indonesia, Jakarta, the city with the biggest decrease in congestion (8%) since 2017, implemented even/odd driving days based on vehicle registration, as well as opened its first metro line. Moscow has embarked on a major rail network expansion project. New York City is considering how congestion pricing could improve mobility, while European capitals Madrid, Brussels, and Amsterdam are already actively discouraging motor vehicle use in their city centers.

Variety – giving choices to the traveling public – and innovation is common themes in urban mobility across the world.

Tools like the Traffic Index can offer an understanding of where the most severe congestion and delays occur, making it easier to decide where to invest in new infrastructure or technology.

We all play a role in reducing traffic congestion

One of the most important reasons why TomTom created the Traffic Index report is to encourage all of us – whether citizens who are affected by congestion or city planners, auto manufacturers and policymakers – to think about how we can each reduce the amount of time we waste in traffic every day.

At TomTom, we’re working towards a future where vehicles are electric, shared and autonomous to eliminate congestion and emissions. However, to achieve this future, it takes a collaborative effort. From road authorities to governments; car makers to car drivers, we all have a role to play.

Next time you are heading into traffic, consider these helpful tips:

  • 1. Plan before you go. Taking a few moments before heading out the door to inform yourself on the road conditions on the way to your destination will help you consider your alternatives and decide on the best course of action.

  • 2. Trust technology to help you. It may be uncomfortable to take the road less traveled simply because your satnav suggests it’s the fastest one. Often, if you cannot see that a road is indeed congested, it is hard to believe it. Dare to take the alternative route offered by up-to-date navigation, because it is basing its recommendation on real-time traffic conditions on the route you are taking.

  • 3. Change your driving habits. Most often, traffic will peak at certain times of the day, depending on location. This is clear in each of the city pages in the TomTom Traffic Index report, where we provide the average congestion level for each hour of each day of the week. Use the information available to adjust your departure time accordingly. Leaving early or late from a location might mean avoiding time spent in traffic on the road.

  • 4. Consider alternatives. Does your trip have to be made by car? If your planned activity is time-sensitive and you cannot change your departure times, consider ride-sharing, public transport or non-motorized options such as cycling or scooters.

  • 5. Work with your city. Ultimately, improving mobility in our cities is a collaborative effort. Together, city authorities, vehicle manufacturers, traffic signal system providers, parking facilities, traffic information providers, shared mobility providers, startups and, most importantly, the public, are experimenting and transforming cities worldwide. Inform yourself of the initiatives taking place in your urban area and how you can benefit from them.

At TomTom, we’re working towards a future where vehicles are electric, shared and autonomous to eliminate congestion and emissions. From road authorities to governments; car makers to car drivers, we all have a role to play.

Nick Cohn

Senior Product Manager, TomTom

Ultimately, it’s most important to be aware of the traffic congestion information available to you and use it to inform your decision making. Whether a road authority or simply a driver wanting to minimize their time spent on the road, the TomTom Traffic Index gives you the tools you need to make better mobility decisions – for yourself and for your community.

Together, we can not only reduce the time wasted in traffic congestion, but also diminish the amount of energy wasted and improve the air quality in your city.

If you want to learn more about traffic congestion levels in your city and what you can do about it, read the full report.

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