Traffic jams in just four Indian cities cost $22 billion a year

Image: Reuters/Vivek Prakash
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India’s biggest cities may be losing up to $22 billion annually to traffic congestion, and its commuters are bearing the burden.

On average, travellers in Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru, and Kolkata spend 1.5 hours more on their daily commutes than their counterparts in other Asian cities during peak traffic times, according to an April 18 report released by The Boston Consulting Group (BCG) and commissioned by Uber.

In fact, peak-hour congestion, which implies the additional time taken during peak traffic to travel a given distance, in these four Indian cities is estimated at 149%, much higher than the Asian average of 67%.

The cost of congestion was calculated on the basis of fuel burned and productivity loss, which includes the man-hours and opportunity cost, pollution, and accidents (health costs) incurred on an annual basis.

Commuting woes

Indian commuters have struggled for years now.

Transport demand in India has increased by almost eight times since the 1980s as rapid economic development and increasing wealth among households has led to higher vehicle ownership. This is higher than anywhere else in the Asia-Pacific region, according to BCG.

“(Traffic congestion is) partly attributable to India’s large population and high population density, as well as an under-developed public transportation network, especially rail-based transport,” the BCG report says.

While public transport in cities like Delhi and Mumbai has been improving in relative terms over the years, particularly with an expanding metro network, this just hasn’t been enough. ”The reliance on cars is expected to increase, adding more pressure to road networks,” the report said.

Image for article titled Traffic jams in just four Indian cities cost $22 billion a year
Image: The Boston Consulting Group

Matters are worse in Bengaluru and Kolkata which have witnessed a more recent population explosion.

Add to all this, a worsening pollution crisis which has often forced local governments to take dramatic measures.