Following the recent release of the TomTom Traffic Index (TTTI) 2017, KPMG has released a report titled “The economics of rush hour traffic”, detailing how much time South Africans spend in traffic and how much it costs the economy.
The 2017 TTTI results show that, of the cities included, Cape Town is the most congested, followed by Johannesburg and East London. The less congested cities are Pretoria, Durban and Bloemfontein.
The TTTI calculates the average time lost in traffic per day by comparing the extra travel time during peak hours compared to the free-flow situation. The annual figure, as calculated by the TTTI, is based on the assumptions such as 230 working days.
In Cape Town, an average commuter would lose 42 minutes per day due to rush hour traffic, which totals 163 hours in a year. This is almost a week that an individual spends in their car, over and above the average uncongested time.
In Johannesburg, this figure will be almost six full days per year, and in East London approximately five full days.
The Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR) estimated the impact of traffic on the British, French, German and American economies using 2013 traffic data. This study measured three costs: reduced productivity of the labour force, higher prices for goods and services due to inflated transport costs and the cost of CO₂ emissions.
The study found that expenses from congestion totalled $200 billion (0.8% of GDP) across the four countries. Two-thirds of the costs incurred are the result of wasted fuel and time that could be better spent elsewhere, and the remainder from increased business expenses. This shows that traffic impacts an economy in various ways.
Another study done in 2013 on traffic in the US showed that higher levels of congestion are initially associated with faster economic growth, yet when it gets above a certain threshold, congestion starts to have a negative impact, slowing down growth.
The initial positive effect can be explained by the fact that traffic indicates active and vibrant urban spaces. The threshold was more than 35 to 37 hours of delay per commuter per year relative to free-flowing traffic.
All of the cities in South Africa that are included in the TTTI 2017 show a much larger negative impact on commuters per year than this threshold – Cape Town delays are almost five times the threshold at 163 hours per year.
Even Bloemfontein, ranked sixth, shows a 68 hour per year delay – almost double the threshold in this study.
Former Joburg major, Parks Tau, said in 2015 that the economic impact that results from congestion in the whole of South Africa was over R1 billion, with the country’s biggest city accounting for the highest loss.