Patrons of a library branch where I formerly worked used to lament the drive from their neighborhood to the main library, located downtown. “All that traffic!” I heard many times from people. I was amused by the jeremiad. It was a busy college town, but not a big one. If you really want to see heavy traffic, I thought, try Atlanta!
Atlanta’s reputation for heavy traffic is upheld by a recent article on Forbes.com. Writer Matt Wolsey rates Atlanta as having the worst commuter traffic in the United States! Sprawl and public transportation that doesn’t cover all parts of the city are to blame, making for commutes that average twenty to sixty minutes. Road work is a contributing factor too, I believe. Road construction is not as constant as it was when I first visited Atlanta in the mid-seventies, but recent projects, such as ones forcing the closure of Techwood Drive and the 14th Street Bridge, continue to add delays to already congested traffic.
But no one has it worse than Bangkok, Thailand. Commuters there can spend up to 45 days per year stuck in traffic; compare that with 60 hours a year for Atlanta! According to a Time Magazine article, Bangkok sees 2,000 cars added to its roads per day, and there aren’t enough paved roads for them to begin with. The city has managed to cope with the gridlock, however: Parents take their kids to school hours before school begins; vendors hawk food and trinkets to waiting motorist; police are trained to deliver babies of mothers-in-labor are caught in traffic. The upside is that the largely Buddhist population manages to keep road rage in check, and air pollution is down, thanks to a switch from diesel to natural gas burning automobiles.
Believe it or not, there may be worse places in the world for traffic. I’m not able to verify the worst in my brief research time, but cities like Mexico City, Mexico, Laos, Nigeria, Mumbai (formerly Bombay), India and Beijing, China are noted for having notorious traffic problems. A list on Howstuffworks.com states that many cities have commuters on bicycles and motor scooters that confound the problem.
So the next time you find yourself caught in a traffic gridlock – and it’ll probably be soon! – just remember that there’s someone somewhere that has it worse!
The Clean Air Campaign offers tips on how to reduce traffic congestion and air pollution in Georgia.
See a photostream of the 10 worst U.S. cities for commuters.
The short documentary A Meditation on the Speed Limit, made by Georgia State University students, takes a look at what happens when you drive the speed limit in metro-Atlanta.