The average person living in a big city can spend up to four months of his/her life sitting, waiting and wishing in traffic. This is becoming ever truer in downtown Johannesburg and its surrounding metropolitan business hubs, particularly Sandton. The influx of people to the big city over the past few years has seen the dark, looming shadow of traffic grow exponentially until, at times, becoming nearly unmanageable, especially when load shedding knocks out power to Sandton’s robots and traffic systems, bringing traffic to a literal standstill.
Growing traffic congestion has serious economic consequences for fast-growing cities, but the most concerning effects of gridlock is on the individual. Imagine you could get back all the time you spent sitting in traffic – an extra hour in the evening with your son or daughter or half an hour more in bed every morning. The pressing question is ‘how many moments are you missing while you’re stuck behind the wheel of a car?’.
According to the latest traffic index report, released annually by TomTom, a global leader in satellite navigation technology, more than 40% of South African employees are late for work due to traffic congestion. Johannesburg is currently ranked the 77th most congested city in the world, and climbing steadily.
“There are many factors that contribute to traffic congestion in South Africa, poor public transport is one of them,” said Etienne Louw, General Manager of TomTom Africa.
This was solemnly acknowledged by Johannesburg mayor Parks Tau at the Ecomobility Festival in October this year. For the month of October, roads in the commercial hub of Sandton were closed off to private vehicles, for the purpose of promoting the use of public transport and getting the public to experience a version of Sandton without all of the congestion, noise and smog.
The soaring number of cars moving in and out of Sandton every day contributes enormously to the city’s CO2 emissions, and the gridlock experienced during rush hour is costing the country a huge amount of money each year, as noted by Tau during the festival: “As it stands, the economic impact that results from congestion in the whole of South Africa is over one billion rand (each year), and Johannesburg accounts for the highest loss, with more than 1.5 million vehicles registered across the metropolitan.”
Those numbers aren’t looking to drop any time soon; commuters in Sandton are rising by 3.4% annually. Currently, the picture of traffic in the precinct is a very gloomy one. On a daily basis, between 7:30am and 8:30am, almost 150 000 people move in and out of Sandton. The scary part is that 70% of the vehicles coming in and out are private.
Gridlock is a global problem affecting every major metropole in the world. The obvious long-term solution is the development of a fully integrated public transport system, but as this will take time, the motor industry is looking to technological development to help alleviate the rising surge of global traffic.
This topic was covered extensively at the TED conference in March 2011, by Bill Ford, in his talk: “A Future Beyond Global Traffic Gridlock“. In his talk, Ford reveals some shocking figures about the rate at which the numbers of cars are increasing in cities around the world, and the cost of gridlock to the economy and the individual: “Today, there are about 800 million cars on the road worldwide. But with more people and greater prosperity around the world, that number is going to grow to between two and four billion cars by mid-century. And this is going to create the kind of global gridlock that the world has never seen before.”
When considering how to navigate around the problem facing us, Ford notes more of the same will not do, and we are going to have to – very quickly – begin developing technology to help us manage traffic flow in big cities.
“We are going to build smart cars, but we also need to build smart roads, smart parking, smart public transportation systems and more. We don’t want to waste our time sitting in traffic, sitting at tollbooths or looking for parking spots. We need an integrated system that uses real-time data to optimise personal mobility on a massive scale, without hassle or compromises for travellers.”
For South Africans, particularly those living in the buzzing metropolis’ of Johannesburg and Cape Town, a smart move toward alleviating traffic congestion – minimising time wasted behind the wheel – is to make use of dedicated sat-nav technology like TomTom. The TomTom GO5000 and GO5100 have independent, unlimited access to TomTom maps, which has more map data for southern Africa than any other mapping resource in the world. A device like this receives over 700 000 data points each second, allowing deadly accuracy, up to 2cm, updating traffic information in real-time. This appears to be the most intelligent short-term solution to minimising your commute time, dodging speed cameras, and getting where you need to be, faster. The only difference between the two is the GO5100 comes with World Maps as well.
With traffic congestion reaching all-time highs, TomTom aims to provide the general public, industry and policymakers with unique and unbiased information about congestion levels in urban areas, making your trip a little more bearable.