Wednesday, 9 March 2022

Your morning commute isn’t nearly as bad as you thought (in relative terms)

The data has spoken: Your commute in Cairo is by no means the worst in the world. Cairo was the 41st most-congested city in 2021, making it less congested than the likes of Paris, Dublin, Osaka, and Athens, according to the Tomtom Traffic Index.

At the top of the index: Istanbul, whose traffic logjams resulted in some 142 hours of wasted time per year, the index shows. Rounding out the top five are Moscow (140 hours), Kyiv (128 hours), Bogota (126 hours), and Mumbai (121 hours). By contrast, Cairo traffic wastes around 80 hours per year.

How it’s measured: The congestion level, expressed as a percentage, indicates how much longer travel times are “than during the baseline non-congested conditions. This means that a 30-minute trip driven in freeflow condition will take 11 minutes longer when the congestion level is at 35%.”

If anything, our commutes have actually been less time-consuming and riddled with fewer jams than they were two years ago, the data shows. The average annual congestion level dipped to 35% in 2021, from 36% in 2020 and 40% in 2019. Time-wise, the amount of time we wasted throughout 2021 in traffic is down 1% y-o-y and is 5% lower than 2019. By way of comparison, top-congested city Istanbul saw an 11% y-o-y increase in its congestion rates.

Probably helping to ease matters: The Sisi administration’s massive transport infrastructure push. 2021 was a huge year for transportation infrastructure in Egypt, as we noted in our Hardhat year in review. Transport received the lion’s share of allocations in the infrastructure public spending plan for FY2021-2022, with some EGP 245 bn earmarked for roads, bridges, and river ports. That’s besides the EGP 27 bn allocated for the railways alone. A chunk of that expenditure went towards overhauling our existing railways and metro lines, and the government also began moving towards new forms of advanced transport, such as the USD 4.5 bn high-speed rail connecting the Red Sea to the Mediterranean and implementing the BRT system on the Ring Road as part of a massive EGP 7.3 bn bn overhaul of the critical freeway.

Typically, our rush hours are worst between 6-7pm, with Tuesday and Wednesday being the worst days of the week. Morning rush hour (usually around 8am) adds an average 10 minutes to commute times, compared to the 19 minutes on average added to evening commutes.

Our worst day of the year: Sunday, 11 April, which recorded a 61% congestion rate. We expect the higher-than-usual congestion came as everyone went on their customary pre-Ramadan grocery buying spree — Ramadan began in the evening of Tuesday, 13 April. And our two most-congested months were March and November, with congestion rates in the low-40% range.

Interestingly, the first week or so of Ramadan saw some of the lowest congestion rates throughout the year, “with the congestion lower more than two times in comparison with respective days.”

The ranking doesn’t provide data for any other cities in Egypt outside Cairo, but the congestion map shown at the top of the ranking indicates what most of us already know: The Greater Cairo area is the most congested area of Egypt. The majority of the red and orange lines indicating heavy traffic are seen in Cairo and Helwan, with some other industrial and cosmopolitan hubs — such as Alexandria and Damietta — also show signs of major or minor delays due to traffic.

Your top infrastructure stories for the week:

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