News Column

Bad traffic costs Cairenes

June 23, 2014

Sara Aggour


Traffic congestion at midday on Abd El-Khalek Tharwat Street, Downtown, Cairo

(Photo by Marwa Morgan)

Google Maps says it should take about 20 minutes to drive from Tahrir Square to Ramses Square. But with the traffic congestion in Cairo, it may take you two or three hours – if not more.

With more than 19 million citizens living in the greater Cairo metropolitan area, traffic congestion puts a serious hamper on Egyptian’s quality of life, according to the May 2014World Bank report on traffic congestion.

Spending time in traffic isn’t just frustrating, it is also costing Egyptians money, the World Bank reported. Without such traffic, citizens could save on fuel consumption and avoid wear and tear on vehicles.

Congestion reflects on Cairo’s business life as well, the World Bank's report said, increasing the costs of transport for business and making the greater Cairo metropolitan area an unattractive location for industry.

Transport is dominated by private cars, which comprises around 55% of the area. Taxis comprise a further 24% of the vehicles while micro- and mini-buses represent 14% of vehicles on the road. Big buses represent 2%, while small and heavy trucks comprise 5.3% of the total vehicles.

The traffic dilemma

Main roads witness traffic volumes ranging between 3,000 to 7,000 vehicles per hour, according to the report. The Ring Road at Carrefour and 6th of October Bridge sees an average of 7,000 vehicles per hour in each direction at peak hours.

"During peak periods, average speeds on sampled surface streets are between 6km to 25km per hour," the World Bank reported, adding that average speeds on the Ring Road are between 20km to 45km per hour.

Due to the traffic congestion, which is maintained most of the day, road travel in the greater Cairo area is a "very unreliable affair," researchers concluded.

Road design, such as physical bottlenecks, u-turns and poor road surface quality contribute to the traffic congestion, according to the World Bank. The lack of road etiquette, represented in the absence of lane discipline, illegal stops and ubiquitous jaywalking, also adds to the problem.

Other contributing factors are represented in the poor observation and enforcement of traffic laws, the limited parking spots and traffic influencing events, such as road accidents and vehicle breakdowns.

The economic costs of traffic

Around EGP 47bn ($8bn) is wasted annually due to traffic congestion, the World Bank report noted.  This is estimated at about 3.6% of the country's gross domestic product (GDP). The main drivers of this are the cost of delays, comprising 31% of the total, and the health impact of the congestion traffic's emissions, at around 19% of total costs.

"Wasted fuel is another contributor to costs (14%), both in terms of its cost to the government due to the subsidy and the direct cost to users," the World Bank wrote. "Agglomeration and business productivity losses that can be linked to congestion constitute 10% of costs."

"Suppressed demand and the impacts on demand for housing together constitute about 3% of total costs," according to the report.

Economic costs are expected to reach EGP 105bn by 2030.

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Source: Daily News Egypt

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