Accelerating, braking, waiting… how much time does a driver lose in a traffic jam?

In Bogotá, 57,029 passenger vehicle sales were recorded in 2021.

Photo: Alexei Morozov

Accelerate, brake, breathe and wait. Accelerate, brake, take a deep breath and wait. Accelerate, brake… A traffic jam is the greatest challenge to the patience of a driver and a passenger, the best school to sharpen the nerves, when dozens of cyclists and motorcyclists pass by millimeters on both sides, and an exercise to control the urge, when we see that people on foot go faster and more quietly. Despite the “benefits”, a traffic jam is a… nightmare.

And the inhabitants of the capital know it, suffer it and curse it daily. Bogotá, with nearly 2.6 million vehicles and 510,000 motorcycles, is the city with the highest private vehicle traffic in South America and the fourth in the world. And that without counting what accompanies the execution of major works.

The latest study of Traffic indexbelonging to the TomTom geolocation technology platform, reveals that Bogotians added 126 hours of congestion to their usual routes in 2021. This means 55% more time than a visit would normally take. To measure the challenge, this period translates into five days in a row in a traffic jam, the time to come and go three times from the capital to Cabo de la Vela.

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The South American cities that continue on the world list are: Lima (Peru), Recife (Brazil) and Santiago de Chile (Chile), at positions 19, 24 and 26, respectively. However, the difference between the number of hours that its inhabitants had to spend in daily traffic jams is significantly less than in Bogotá. Lima, with almost 10 million inhabitants, for example, recorded a time of 96 hourswith a level of congestion of 42%, which indicates that in comparison, getting around this city with a private vehicle is 1.3 times faster than in the Colombian capital.

From a perspective beyond the continent, Bogotá is surpassed by Istanbul (Turkey), Moscow (Russia) and kyiv (Ukraine). The Turkish city is at the top of the ranking with a congestion level of 62% and 142 hours of traffic. New Delhi (India), for its part, is eleventh, with 110 hours and a congestion rate of 48%. What is interesting is that 27 million inhabitants are mobilized there (3.8 times Bogotá) and mobility is recording more encouraging times.

For José Stalin Rojas, mobility expert and director of the Mobility Observatory of the National University, the exorbitant times that the citizens of Bogotá spend in traffic jams “are due to the fact that the number of cars (new and opportunity) is increasing at a faster rate than construction or extension of roads. Andi and Fenalco data show that in 2021, 250,272 vehicles were sold in the country32% more than in 2020. Bogotá was the city with the most sales, with 57,029. The projection for this year is 265,000, of which around 60,000 will be sold in the capital.

Neighborhood measures

In response to traffic congestion in the city, the District has worked to encourage the use of alternative transportation. But for those who don’t want to get out of the car and after having extended the peak and plate restriction to all day, it also has initiatives that aim to compensate the city, with the solidarity peak and plate, or to have more passengers per car and fewer vehicles on the streets, such as the shared mobility program. Both aim to reduce the volume of vehicles in the city.

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According to data from the Mobility secretary (SDM), the Pico y Placa Solidario in March had 25,679 drivers registered, who paid to be exempt from crest and trim, 60% of which even had trim. Product of the strategy, 59% paid almost $2 million, for six months of exemption; 21%, almost $420,000, for a month, and 20%, $53,000 for a day. Thanks to this measure, nearly 33,000 million dollars have been raised this year.

Car sharing, on the other hand, where vehicles that carry at least three people are exempt from pick and plate, has also been a growing measure. While in November 2021 an average of 73,000 vehicles were registered per week, the second week of March there were 135,870 registrations, an increase of 86%. Para el Distrito, las medidas han allowed to decrease the vehicle volume by 8.4% and register an increase of 9.8% in the validaciones de usuarios en el transporte público (SITP), pasando a registrar 25 million passengers from November 2021 at the date.

However, it is important to ask: how did the drivers feel the impact of the measures? For Raúl Díaz, this has not had the effect of reducing traffic, because “we are still stuck in endless traffic jams. We can no longer go out for an errand, because it takes at least half a day. You don’t really feel any deference with these measures.”

What are the options?

In view of the difficulty some citizens experience in the time wasted in traffic jams when traveling in a private vehicle, which according to the SDM they take an average of 52 minutes each way, there are mobility alternatives, which could provide a more effective solution. The use of the bicycle is one of the most used. The latest survey indicates that in Bogotá 1.5 million people use this vehicle and they have 590 km of cycle paths. In addition, the average journey time for cyclists is 39 minutes.

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Public transport, with an average time of 44 minutes per trip, is presented as the alternative to public transport. At the date, the system has 350 zonal routes, 88 main and 10 dual; 665 electric buses, more than 700 gas buses and the Transmicable. And if the place you want to go is 15 or 20 minutes away, the SDM recommends walking leaving the car at home, especially on short trips. This will reduce automobile congestion rates.

Although these alternatives can contribute to improving the transport times of citizens, it is necessary for the District to put in place strong measures that facilitate mobility in the capital. “Only a better integrated public transport system will save us from congestion, which means a metro network, a few main lines and a better infrastructure for bicycles”, concluded José Staline Rojas.

For more news from the capital and Cundinamarca, visit the Bogotá sectionexcerpt from The Spectator.

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