Study: Chicago Drivers Don’t Have It So Bad
Just because you’re stuck in terrible traffic every day on the way to work, a new study conducted by IBM says you don’t have it so bad–at least compared to drivers who live in other cities around the world.
IBM has just released their annual Commuter Pain Survey and according to the over 400 local drivers surveyed, things are really not that bad.
When you compare the experiences of over 8000 drivers surveyed in 20 cities globally, Chicago is relatively pain free, ranking as the 3rd most pain free driving city in the world overall with a Pain Index of 25. This puts the Windy City just two points higher than second place London (23) and least painful city, Montreal (21).
At the opposite end of the spectrum, driving in Mexico City must be hell as Mexico’s capital city got 2011′s bottom of the barrel ranking with a Pain Index of 108, with the Chinese cities of Shenzen and Beijing essentially tied with a Pain Index of 95 for a tie for second to last most painful place to drive on earth.
The Pain Index is made up of ten factors including commuting time, time spent stuck in traffic, price of gas, etc.
Chicago’s ranking by IBM’s study seems to be at least partially at odds with Texas Transportation Institute’s Urban Mobility Study, which named Chicago as having the worst congestion in America back in January.
Chicago was one of six North American cities surveyed–a list that includes New York City, Los Angeles, Toronto, Montreal and Mexico City.
According to the study, of the 406 Chicago-area respondents, 64% drive alone while only 3% of Chicago drivers carpool to work. That 64% puts Chicago drivers near the top for highest percentage driving alone, while the 3% puts our drivers near the bottom for carpooling.
But you can tell Chicago drivers really love driving their cars, as when asked “what is your main mode of transportation for trips other than to work or school?”, 81% of Chicago motorists said their car. Only drivers in Johannesburg, South Africa came in higher with 82%.
On average, Chicago commuters who drive spend slightly over 30 minutes per leg of their commute in their vehicle or 61 minutes per day. That’s just a hair more than drivers in New York City, but 10 minutes less than the poor drivers in Nairobi, Keyna and Mexico City.
Most Chicago drivers leave for work between 7-8 AM (27%) and most return home between 5-6 PM (24%).
But hardcore Chicago area drivers who experience high traffic volume daily might take issue with the findings of IBM’s study.
“Part of Chicago’s top three ranking can be attributed to the fact that, drivers stay off downtown streets – 27% less than the worldwide average and an astounding 61% less than commuters in Beijing,” says IBM’s Sara Delekta Galligan.
Indeed, according to the study, only 36% of the drivers surveyed here say they drive on Chicago’s downtown streets, while 75% of respondents say they drive on suburban roads.
Perhaps most shocking to many veteran local drivers is that 10% of the local drivers surveyed have never been stuck in traffic for the last three years. Never.
Unless this particular 10% represented in the survey commute to work between DeKalb and Aurora from 2-4 AM every morning this seems like a statistical impossibility.
More believably the study says locally, 39% of motorists report having been caught in traffic for 30 minutes or more, 27% for an hour or more, 15% coming in at two hours, and 7% gridlocked in traffic for 3 hours or more.
But based on the data, it seems possible that a disproportionate number of suburban drivers were included in the survey versus drivers located within or adjacent to the urban core of Chicago proper.
But part of IBM’s rankings have to do with how a driver’s commute impacts their overall quality of life, which may also play a part in Chicago’s high ranking.
“Only 19% of Chicago commuters surveyed say that traffic has negatively impacted their performance at school or work,” says Delekta Galligan, “(That’s) compared 43% that said the same around the world.”
Despite the perceptions or beliefs of local motorists on the challenge of their commute, perhaps in a relative sense traffic is much worse other places in the world, as IBM’s study seems to suggest. Overall the study concludes that worldwide drivers are reporting “more stress and frustration” during commutes.
Compared to the emerging urban centers of China, where last year the capital Beijing experienced a nine day traffic jam locking up roads 60 miles in each direction, Chicago’s prolonged travel times seem like a walk in the park.