Traffic jams are more than just annoying

Certainly, traffic jams can be really annoying but they are also major contributors to pollution, waste fossil fuels and cost us a fortune. I was amazed when I saw the headline below in a French newspaper (translation below that). I’m very interested in such things because there’s something wrong here. The universe is trying to tell us that we’re doing something wrong and we need to change direction. The way we’re living and the way we’re headed is definitely not in a good direction. Do you want to feel good by helping to change this direction?

Traffic jams are more than just annoying - Le Parisien

Here’s an approximate translation

Traffic jams in France are costing 46 million euros per day or 17 billion euros each year, and this looks like increasing to 22 billion euros by 2030 according to a previously unseen study. The headline actually says “46 million euros go up in smoke every day”.

Where did this information come from?

Inside the newspaper, the article says that the study was done by a corporation called Inrix. This company is US based and their expertise is studying traffic to help other corporations provide useful tools to the driving public. On the Inrix website they make the following statement;

INRIX collects nearly 2 billion data points each day, from 100s of distinct sources from around the world to then analyze through our traffic intelligence platform. Our comprehensive approach allows you to provide your customers with unparalleled insight, setting your products and services apart from the competition.

It’s impossible for me to tell how reliable this information from Inrix is, but they don’t seem to be a fly-by-night company and I’m sure we all know that traffic jams must be costing us a lot of money.

Inrix provided this interesting graphic on their website that simply explains some of the key findings of their report;

Traffic jams are more than just annoying


My direct experience with traffic jams

As you may know, I’m trying to Use 10 Percent Less (use10percentless) in all areas of life, one of which is reducing fuel consumption while driving. The chart below shows one of the statistics I’m tracking, in this case it’s the amount of fuel I use to drive from my French home to the office (about 34 kms). The interesting thing on this chart is the anomaly in the blue circle.

traffic jams are more than just annoying

This anomaly, with a really high spike in fuel usage, occurred one day when I set my alarm wrongly. I set it an hour later by mistake and left for work an hour later than normal. This put me right in the middle of the worst traffic. I normally try and leave well before the worst of the traffic, originally because I don’t see the point of wasting a lot of time in the car and I’m most productive in the mornings. I don’t mind getting to the office early.

So, on this day I hit the worst of the traffic and used about 20% more fuel. So there’s a good way to use 10% less, just avoid the bad traffic times.

It’s clear that traffic jams must be wasting a lot of fuel and costing a lot of money. What can we do to avoid them?

What can we do about traffic jams?

Inside the French newspaper, Le Parisien, they make the following suggestions;

  • Dedicated bus lanes on highways
  • Reduce speed limits
  • Use the emergency lane
  • Increase car-pooling
  • Use technology to avoid traffic jams and gridlock
  • Have more cars connected to technology and feeding back live traffic information

It’s interesting that they didn’t mention avoiding travel at peak hour times.

Avoid traffic jams whenever possible

My first strategy (just because I hate wasting time sitting in the car) is to avoid traffic jams whenever possible. Here are some of the simple things I try;

  • Leave early (from where I live, leaving home after 7am can add an extra 30 minutes to my travel time)
  • Take back roads to avoid typically jammed roads (after experimentation, I’ve found a group of back roads that generally don’t get jammed and, even though the speed is limited, they keep moving and are much quicker than trying to take the main roads.)
  • Take an “expensive”, less used toll-road when necessary (for my drive home, I take a toll road that most people avoid because it costs between 5 and 9 euros per trip, but taking it saves me 15-20 minutes of traffic jams – I think it’s worth it)
  • Don’t drive (if possible, just don’t drive at all when there’s a high likelihood of traffic jams)
  • Take the train (I’m getting used to taking the train whenever I go to Paris now – it’s not so bad and I feel good about reducing the amount of pollution I cause).

Use 10% Less

Traffic jams are a huge problem and we’ll probably never be able to make them go away. However, getting back to the spirit of Use 10 Percent Less (use10percentless), We can certainly make some adjustments to reduce the amount of traffic jams, and that can’t be bad on anybodies measure. Even if we target reducing them a modest 10%, that would be significant.

There are many things governments can do to reduce traffics jams, and most governments are trying to do that. It feels like such a worthless waste to be burning fossil fuels working our way through traffic jams.

But it’s not all up to governments. We can easily play a part too. It doesn’t take much for us to reduce the amount of fuel we waste in traffic jams by 10%, and it feels good to be contributing to a better world in simple ways like this.

Does reducing wastage and pollution feel good to you?

Do you have any good tricks for avoiding traffic jams?

Related Links – Traffic Jams

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