Houston's Traffic Not All That Bad — From A Global Perspective

If you think traffic is bad in Houston — be grateful you don't have to drive in Beijing, Mexico City, or Johannesburg. Those three cities top a new global poll of the worst commutes in the world. As David Pitman reports — Houston comes out looking like a relatively easy place to get around.

In an IBM survey of 20 cities, Houston tied with Melbourne to have the second-least painful commute in the world.  Of course, that doesn't mean that commuters here haven't experienced their share of frustration behind the wheel, according to IBM's Florence Hudson.

"Twenty percent of drivers surveyed in Houston say that there's been an occasion in the last three years when traffic was so bad that they've had to turn around and go home, which is really annoying, as we know.  And 42% of drivers say traffic congestion has gotten worse in the past three years."

But Houston still had the easiest commute of three American cities in the survey, which included New York and Los Angeles.   And Hudson says cities in the U.S. fared much better than ones in Asia and South America, where the economies are growing much more rapidly.

"And these economies and cities haven't really had the time to get the right infrastructure in place.  Houston has been a thriving city and economy for years, so I think there's been an opportunity for them to actually put a lot of the solutions in place."

Hudson says the easiest solution is to give workers more flexible schedules, and the ability to work from home.  She also says cities could move quicker to use technology that could predict when and where traffic will deteriorate — the same kind of technology that IBM just so happens to be developing.

Bio photo of David Pitman

David Pitman

Local Host, Morning Edition

The one question David hears most often isn't "What is it like to work for an NPR member station?" or "Have you ever met Terry Gross?" (he has)...