The Worst Commutes Around The World

IBM's Commuter Pain study calculates the places where getting to work causes the most mental anguish. Traffic is down because of high gas prices, but the pain is still there. How can we ease commutes?

Commuting to work is rarely a fun exercise, but it's easier in some places than others. IBM's annual Commuter Pain survey of 8,042 commuters in 20 cities spells it out: Roadway traffic has largely improved over the past three years, but people around the world say that road traffic is negatively affecting their stress levels now more than ever. As it stands, commuters in clogged cities like Moscow and Mexico City sometimes get stuck in traffic for hours on end. But there are solutions.

According to IBM, the cities with the most "commuter pain"—hours spent in traffic, high price of gas, high stress, etc.—include Shenzen, Beijing, and Nairobi. The least painful commutes take place in Chicago, London, and Montreal. Overall, there has been a decrease in traffic since IBM first conducted its survey four years ago, largely because of high fuel prices and weak economies. So how can the more traffic-laden cities cut down on headaches?

Perhaps the biggest solution is better public transportation. IBM's survey reveals that 41% of respondents believe that improved public transportation would reduce traffic congestion. And out of the 35% of people globally who changed the way they get to work or school last year, 45% switched to public transit. In Nairobi, a whopping 70% of commuters take more public transit this year than last year.

Of course, general transportation infrastructure investments also help. Beijing, for example, is investing over $12 billion dollars in infrastructure improvements—and residents of the city have reported a significant improvement in traffic conditions over the past three years.

IBM, for its part, believes it can help many of the traffic-heavy cities with its Intelligent Transportation solutions. "We don't make products aimed at individual citizens, but we help clients understand where the pain is and what they should be focusing on," explains Vinodh Swaminathan, IBM's director of intelligent transportation systems. And if IBM can help cities cut down on commuter pain, maybe the company can improve our health, too.

[Images: IBM]

Reach Ariel Schwartz via Twitter or email.

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  • prateek tambi

    Well I work in Bangalore and it is a bad place to commute. But commuting pain is history for me. I took up cycling to work and with the superb weather in Bangalore I say commuting is as much fun as it can be. I am writing a blog about it:

  • David Kaiser, PhD

    I feel lucky being in Chicago! I can't complain, we have great public transportation here, and that is great, especially when the weather is ugly. 

    David Kaiser, PhDExecutive Coach www.DarkMatterConsulting.comHeroes and Heroines always have a Guide:Arthur had MerlinLuke had Obi-WanBuffy had GilesYou have MeTime to be Extraordinary!

  • Munim

     As a Bangalorean who spends a lot of time in Mumbai, I have to say that the commuting situation in Mumbai is far better than Bangalore. There are local trains (which admittedly get too crowded during peak hours, but they are a very reliable and effective mode of transportation). The autos and taxis in Mumbai don't rip you off and are also available during the late night. Compared to this, the Bangalore ones are basically thieves trying to extract as much money as possible from you, and this is not an exaggeration. We have a decent bus system here now, but it is still far from usable. It's really no surprise that Bangalore is the top Indian city on this list. 

  • jimhorak

    For some time now I have been reading articles pertaining to comments on high gas prices, oil companies huge profits and government issues which are great but unfortunately the comments previously discussed has not changed the ridicules price I am paying at the gas pump, including groceries and clothes etc; no offence but I do not think the higher powers are listening. It sounds like we are all sick and tired of paying the high prices for gas but what is the solution?
     In my quest for finding lower gas prices I discovered a couple of gas discount memberships and gas card programs kinda like AAA, Costco or Sams Club.  It is easy and with the money we have saved; our family can go on road trips, to movies and more fun stuff. For FREE report; email:   

  • Lindsay Fralick

    Bitching about having a commute?  That means you have a job and an income.....

  • Sev Fevzi

    How can IBM rank London & Montreal side by side for the lesser pain in commuting? I moved from London to Montreal last year, and the commuting experiences are definately opposite ends of the spectrum! IBM really need to spend a day in London commuting to understand that it should be closer to the commuting experience in Mexico City...

  • Anthony C

    They obviously didn't survey NJ commuters. My commute from NJ to NY is an absolute nightmare. First I drive 20min to the bus stop. Then I park a half a mile away from where the bus picks me up. If I'm lucky that day it will be raining so hard I get soaked from head to toe even with an umbrella (like yesterday).

    After that it's anywhere between 1-2hrs into the city depending on traffic/weather and stupid drivers. Next I need to sprint through the Port Authority Bus Terminal and jump on a downtown A Train for 5 stops. At this point I need to traverse multiple staircases to switch to the B Train. After that I take it one stop and walk 5 minutes to the office. Repeat on the way home. If I'm lucky again I'll miss the 6:20pm bus home by one minute and then wait for the 6:50 bus which is running 20 minutes late. Total commute time per day = 4-6 hours. Fun.

  • Josh Breinlinger

    My daily commute led me to create a startup to deal with the wasted commuting time.  Rather than try to redesign the transportation system - I figured it would be easier to find ways to work while I'm in the car.  That's why I built It's a simple system that takes users questions and sends them to experts in the form of text messages.  Then connects the caller and the expert on a conference call. 

  • David Selch

    Even though I work remotely from a home office, I'd like to share a nightmare of a commuting story.  A few weeks ago, a laundry basket overturned on my normal route in to the office.  The detour more than tripled my normal commute time, robbing precious seconds from my normal work day.  Fortunately, I had no early morning calls, and so didn't miss any meetings. 

  • Cheri Coleman

    Obviously no one here has ever had to travel I-5 in the Seattle is the worst by far and I have lived in New York and spent time in California...they don't even compare..once on I-5 there is no where else to go because for some reason the planners in this state felt one long highway was enough???

  • Shri S Sundaram

    Wonder why Mumbai is not featured here. It should definitely be rated and will fall right above MExicoCity or after it.