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Cape Town has the ninth-worst traffic congestion in the world

By Larry Claasen

The City of Cape Town will spend R444-million to relieve traffic congestion over the next three years.

TRAFFIC congestion in Cape Town ranks among the worst in the world. This is according to the 2023 INRIX Global Traffic Scorecard, which placed Cape Town 9 out of 100 urban areas.
INRIX measures congestion against its Impact Rank, which is the number of hours lost in peak commute periods compared to off-peak conditions relative to a city’s population.

Cape Town’s Impact Rank deteriorated from 13th in 2022 to 9th due to drivers spending an extra 83 hours in traffic — a 32% increase. Though congestion is 10% lower than its pre-COVID-19 levels, INRIX’s scorecard notes a 7% rise in the first quarter of 2024.

The scale of congestion can be seen in Cape Town, with its population of 4,6-million, ranking ahead of 10th-placed Jakarta, Indonesia, which has 10,5-million people.

Boston, ranked 8th, has a population of 4,4-million, is the only city comparable to Cape Town in terms of population ahead of it on the scorecard. The other cities ranked higher than it are New York, Mexico City, London, Paris, Chicago, Istanbul, and Los Angeles, which are some of the world’s major metropolitans.

INRIX’s scorecard is not the only traffic ranking that gives the ‘Mother City’ a poor score for its congestion.

The 2023 TomTom Traffic Index says Cape Town has the second-worst congestion in Africa after Ciro, Egypt. TomTom measures congestion as the average additional time lost to traffic in 2023 when compared to driving in free-flowing conditions.

According to TomTom, residents spent 127 hours in traffic in 2023, 48 hours of which were due to congestion. The congestion also meant an extra R882 a year was spent on filling petrol tanks.

The City of Cape Town says it takes traffic congestion seriously and has set aside billions to improve its public transport services and its road network.

“The Urban Mobility Directorate’s capital budget over the medium-term, starting on 1 July 2024 until 30 June 2027, amounts to nearly R8,9-billion,” says councillor Rob Quintas, the city’s mayoral committee member for urban mobility. This sees the city setting aside R444-million for road projects, which include sidewalks and cycle lanes to relieve traffic congestion at pressure points in Kuils River, Durbanville, Belhar, Salt River, along the M3, Maitland, along Kommetjie Main Road and Diep River.

The city is also expanding its public transport services, with R6,28-billion being set aside for the new Khayelitsha/Mitchells Plain MyCiTi route.

It will also spend R668-million on MyCiti buses, R221-million on MyCiti bus stops, and R176-million on upgrades to 65 public transport interchanges.

The road network will also get a boost, with R764-million budgeted for repairs to streetlights and R826 million set aside for road maintenance and pothole repairs in the 2024/2025 period. R735-million has also been set aside for road upgrades for the three-year period.

“Our expenditure priorities for the next three financial years demonstrate our intention to keep people, goods, and services on the move. This is why we are setting aside billions to create new infrastructure to improve public transport not only for those who are currently using public transport services but also to provide a viable alternative to single occupancy vehicles,” says Quintas.

Quintas is not blind to how congestion can easily impede the city’s economic growth.
“Congestion affects productivity as it impedes mobility in terms of time spent on commuting and costs – be it for operators of public transport services, commuters, or those travelling in private vehicles. For our local economy to grow at pace and to create jobs, we need to ensure that goods, services, and, most importantly, people can get to where they need to be in the most equitable, dignified and sustainable way possible.”

Aside from stemming economic growth, congestion was also detrimental to the environment. For example, TomTom calculated that the average vehicle emitted 754kg of CO2 a year, of which 88kg was due to congestion.

Quintas says, “The impact of carbon emissions on our natural environment by road-based transport is a huge concern.”

This is why the city is adding universally accessible footways and cycle lanes to support its sustainability and zero-emission commitments. Quintas says doing this will make “communities more walkable and cycling friendly, therefore encouraging non-motorised transport as the mode of choice for shorter distances, and where practical and possible.”

Another way to reduce congestion is to have more people work from home. TomTom says working from home for three days will reduce time in traffic by 78 hours, save R4 192 and cut emissions by 456 kg a year.

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