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The world’s 10 most congested cities

Traffic jams are a major source of stress - and greenhouse gas emissions.

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Angelo Rychel
Angelo Rychel
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When today’s cars with traditional combustion engines are stuck in traffic, greenhouse gas emissions and stress levels escalate. TomTom's new 2016 Traffic Index shines a light on our planet’s most gridlock-plagued cities. The results: one country manages to rank three times in the top 10, while a 20 million strong metropolis occupies an unfortunate first place.

By optimizing the flow of traffic and reducing car accidents, self-driving cars have the potential to eliminate traffic jams for good. This might not only spare millions of drivers some additional grey hair, but would also be a blessing for this planet’s climate. The sad truth is: stop-and-go traffic quadruples CO₂ emissions, according to a study by the International Road Transport Union.

For its 2016 Traffic Index, Dutch navigation company TomTom measured the extra time you spend behind the wheel due to traffic congestion in 295 cities on six continents.

Based on TomTom’s ranking, we give you an overview of the cities that would especially benefit from introducing automated cars and the resulting drop in emissions: the world’s 10 most congested cities. With global traffic congestion at an all-time high, there is clearly an urgent need to make transport more intelligent!

10. Los Angeles

Twelve lanes or more are a common sight at freeways in Los Angeles, California. But unfortunately, free-flowing traffic is not a common sight as well. Currently, the average driver spends 41 percent extra travel time in mind-numbing bumper-to-bumper traffic. L.A. can righteously be awarded the gridlock capital of the United States.

9. Chengdu

Photo: iStock (Photographer: Sthaporn)

Surprisingly, Chengdu is China’s only city that made it into the top 10 ranking. What comes as no surprise is that its traffic situation is no fun. A normal city drive takes 41 percent extra travel time compared to a free flow of traffic.

8. Recife

Photo: www.copa2014.gov.br

Over 50 bridges can be found in Recife’s center, which led to the city’s nickname: Brazilian Venice. But unlike its Italian role model, motorized vehicles shape Recife’s cityscape. Around here, traffic congestion causes a 43 percent increase of travel time in relation to driving in flowing traffic.

7. Salvador

Photo: Manu Dias/AGECM, CC BY 2.0

Another newcomer to this year’s ranking: Salvador, Brazil’s third largest city. 2.7 million-strong and famous for its nightlife, traffic jams in the peninsula city are infuriating. When out and about in your car, time spent behind the wheel on an average ride will be 43 percent longer than in (hypothetically) free flowing traffic.

6. Bucharest

Photo: danieldiaconu / iStock

At any given time, Bucharest’s traffic tends to be an ordeal. An average ride currently takes almost 43 percent extra travel time – not to mention the peaks during morning and evening rush hours! Romania’s capital thus ranks as one of the European cities with the slowest-moving traffic.

5. Moscow

Photo: Delion / iStock

No traffic jam ranking would be complete without Russia’s capital: Muscovites spend 44 percent longer stuck in traffic than they would in freely moving traffic. Luckily, many of Moscow’s road participants make good use of their time in gridlock: they work out, knit or even start flirting.

4. Rio de Janeiro

Taking the car is not a good idea in Rio de Janeiro – at least not if you are in a hurry. Rio de Janeiro’s infamous traffic means that, overall, average drives take 47 percent longer as they would on uncongested roads. However, Brazil is expanding subway lines and improving road infrastructure for the 2016 Olympics to be hosted in Rio.

3. Istanbul

Photo: Anna Bryukhanova / iStock

Still no reason to celebrate: like in last year's ranking, Istanbul finds itself in the top 3. With an average of 50 percent extra travel time, you can expect a normal drive to take longer by half compared to driving in free flowing traffic. During rush hours, schedule an extra 47 minutes to get to another part of town, as compared to an hour of driving in light traffic.

2. Bangkok

When it comes to traffic gridlock, Bangkok cuts a sorry figure. In this ginormous, blaring logjam, drivers can expect to spend an average of 57 percent extra travel time stuck in traffic anytime of the day, as compared to an uncongested situation. Well, let’s see when that happens!

1. Mexico City

Photo: Joel Carillet / iStock

And the sad winner is: Mexico City. With standstill wherever you look, the megacity’s lanes are a dreadful place to be. Traffic jams extend the time of your ride here by 59 percent versus a free flow situation. During evening peak periods, you are likely to spend an additional 57 minutes in your car compared to an hour of driving on open roads. At least the city’s officials have come up with a creative idea to end this mess. They have proposed an aerial transportation system with floating gondolas hovering over the busy streets. However, here’s hoping driverless cars could soon make a difference.

What's your opinion on how to solve the problem of gridlocks? Let us know and leave a comment below!

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Angelo Rychel
Angelo Rychel
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