Mexico City traffic is worst, drivers survey says

Thu Sep 8, 2011 1:12am EDT
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By Andrew Stern

CHICAGO (Reuters) - Driving in Mexico City is a nightmare, while in Montreal it's a relative breeze.

So says an IBM-sponsored survey released on Thursday of 8,000 people in 20 cities who drive regularly and were asked about their level of "commuter pain" and the consequences in terms of stress, lost time, and ill health.

"Traffic congestion is down on a global level, while the pain of commuting is increasing," said Vinodh Swaminathan, IBM's director of intelligent transportation systems.

Economic weakness and high fuel prices were two reasons for the drop in traffic congestion since the survey was first conducted four years ago, Swaminathan said. Huge investments in roads and public transit infrastructure by emerging economic powers China and India also helped a bit.

Still, 41 percent of the drivers surveyed would like to kick their vehicles to the curb and take public transportation instead, if available, the survey found.

Mexico City -- which had the highest driver pain index of 108, compared to Montreal's 21 -- intends to spend more than $2 billion in coming years to ease its colossal traffic problem, Swaminathan said in an interview.

"You cannot build your way out of congestion. It has to be a balance of infrastructure improvements and technology," he said.

Stockholm, ranked fourth-best on the list of 20 cities, installed a congestion pricing system to reduce demand, cutting traffic by 25 percent and commute times in half, he said.   Continued...

<p>Traffic moves during rains in Mexico City February 4, 2010. REUTERS/Daniel Aguilar</p>