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If you hate traffic, get ready for more sustained road rage and anxiety. IBM released its annual Commuter Pain survey, and while commuters report traffic congestion in some cities is improving, complaints and "pain" are at an all-time high. Why? Beginning about five years ago, more people around the world began living in metropolitan areas than not. Economic opportunity is driving people closer to cities, especially in China, Eastern Europe and Brazil, and the rush happened before adequate transportation infrastructure could be built.

With 8,042 commuters in 20 cities surveyed, the IBM data-mine serves as something of a tool for urban planners, as well as a barometer for the emotional frustration felt from behind the wheel. How does inefficient commuting impact people these days? Sixty-nine-percent of people surveyed said that commuting has negatively affected their health in someway--with 42% complaining of stress and 35% anger.

How does that translate in real-life? As Annie Lowrey points out in Slate, longer commutes can increase the likelihood for divorce, obesity, and general malaise. How? People who are stuck commuting for hours a day have less time to exercise, tend to eat in their cars more often (fast food), miss family events and appointments, as well as family dinners. All that puts a mental, as well as physical, strain on the commuting worker, spouse and or parent.

  • Toyota Prius


    MSRP: $21,650 - $28,790

    Average Price Paid: $24,302

    Combined Fuel Economy: 49.5 mpg


    Why It's A Great Commuter: Hybrids are fantastic for stop-and-go traffic, as their regenerative braking allows for increased time driving in electric mode, which can save you a ton on fuel.

  • Image Credit: TOYOTA
  • Ford Fusion Hybrid


    MSRP: $28,600

    Average Selling Price: $27,526

    Combined Fuel Economy: 38.6 mpg


    Why It's A Great Commuter: The Fusion Hybrid boasts the same benefits as the Toyota Prius, but comes in a sportier package.

  • Image Credit: FORD
  • Chevrolet Volt


    MSRP: $39,145

    Average Selling Price: $39,997

    Combined Fuel Economy: 92.5 mpg


    Why It's A Great Commuter: The Volt can drive for up to 40 miles on electric charge alone. If your daily commute is within that range, this car is a great choice for you. You'll save boatloads on fuel costs, even if you need to employ the onboard gas-powered generator from time to time.

  • Image Credit: GM
  • Mazda5


    MSRP: $19,195

    Average Selling Price: $18,196

    Combined Fuel Economy: 23.7 mpg


    Why It's A Great Commuter: The Mazda5 is one of the best minivans on the market. Its small size and efficient engine get great fuel economy, the interior is comfy and roomy and it's surprisingly fun to drive.

  • Image Credit: MAZDA
  • Hyundai Sonata Hybrid


    MSRP: $25,795

    Average Selling Price: $25,682

    Combined Fuel Economy: 27.1 mpg


    Why It's A Great Commuter: Hyundai's hybrid offering gets great fuel economy, looks sleek and sporty and boasts a very comfortable ride in traffic.

  • Image Credit: HYUNDAI
  • Vespa


    MSRP: $4,599 (LX 150)

    Combined Fuel Economy: 35 mpg (LX 150)


    Why It's A Great Commuter: Driving a scooter allows you to zip in and out of traffic, avoiding long backups and the waste that comes with sitting idle on the highway. Many scooters can offer up to 150+ mpg, too.

  • Image Credit: VESPA

U.S. Improving, but not for good reasons

Of the twenty cities around the world surveyed, the three U.S. cities--Los Angeles, New York City, and Chicago represent descending amounts of "pain" felt by commuters. That's good news until you figure that part of the improvement is due to fewer people commuting due to the Recession and high unemployment.

When the economy was humming and unemployment was down to less than 4%, it was not uncommon to find swells of people in New Jersey and Connecticut spending 90 minutes to two hours a day commuting into New York City by car, bus or train or some combination of all three. The same has not been uncommon for Los Angeles, Chicago, Boston and Washington DC. The commuters are still grinding it out in those cities, but amidst fewer of their rivals for HOV lanes and seats on the train.

The forecast is for things to get worse: By 2050, IBM predicts as much as 80% of the world's population will live in urban environments, with China and India predicted to boast hundreds of cities with 1 million residents or more. Transit fluidity will be increasingly of the essence.

"Transportation is the most important coping infrastructure within cities to contribute to economic vitality," says Vinodh Swaminathan, director of intelligent transportation systems at IBM.

Did you say "infrastructure?" That has become a dirty world in U.S. politics. Democrats want to spend more on it to improve commuting and put unemployed construction workers back to work, while Republicans say the debt-plagued U.S. can't afford it.

With commuters reporting stress and frustration related worldwide, 41% of commuters globally surveyed by IBM said improved public transportation would reduce stress. If you're living in a major city other than Nairobi, where 48% of commuters report that roadway traffic has not hurt their health, chances are that the majority of your commuting population has a low tolerance for transportation struggles.

"Commuting doesn't occur in a vacuum," said Naveen Lamba, IBM's global intelligent transportation expert. "A person's emotional response to the daily commute is colored by many factors – pertaining both to traffic congestion as well as to other, unrelated, issues. This year's Global Commuter Pain survey indicates that drivers in cities around the world are much more unsettled and anxious compared with 2010."

IBM's focus, not surprisingly, boils down to finding technological solutions to deal with the grave realities the statistics reveal: the crankiness and hair-pulling of bottlenecks.

"What can we do about people feeling lousy sitting in traffic?" Swaminathan put it.

IBM's Smart Traveler predictive technology may have the answer. Smart Traveler, developed by IBM in cooperation with the California Department of Transportation (CalTrans) and University of California, Berkeley, is a pilot program to provide San Francisco Bay Area drivers with predictive commutes. The technology combines CalTrans road sensor data along and other historical data it has collected about those roads to send messages to drivers about what might be happening when they arrive a few minutes later.

By pooling cell phone data, toll data, GPS location markers, city loop censors and video footage, Smart Traveler can provide information that's more relevant to motorists. Check out this video about tech solutions to gridlock:

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 3 Years Ago
      How could they leave out D.C. and our circular parking lot, 495! Criminal! Who can we sue? But I note that "LL" is busy today, cutting and pasting his meager life away, annoying the daylights out of people with a real life and real car insurance. He really needs a hobby or a girl friend!
      • 3 Years Ago
      In Pittsburgh, we have several tunnels. We also have these drivers called "Chicken Little Drivers" (they think the sky is falling) who slam on their brakes at the tunnel entrance and creep through all of the very long tunnels at 15 mph or slower. They do this all day! During morning and evening rush, it's maddening! The police ignore the problem even though there is a minimum speed limit of 45 mph. The police only ticket speeders not slow pokes. Any suggestions out there?
      • 2 Months Ago
      Only a one-track-mind(less) idiot could somehow involve our President in this fluff piece. Apparently waweo01 is one such moron..... Go dring some TEA...!!!!
      • 2 Months Ago
      If you wnna see something really CRAZY,come to Southern Calif sometiime,esp Orange County,where the freeways are CONSTANTLY being "Expanded",only to see them "RE-Expanded" as soon as the projects are done.There are places where the freeways have gone from 3-5-7-8 lanes in the last 15-20 years.As soon as they get done widening,they start widening again;and the traffic is still GRIDLOCK during rush hours,HOWEVER,at least these freeways are in NICE SHAPE,unlike LOS ANGELES freeways which CANNOT be expanded upon anymore,are broken up,graffitied on,have little/no lighting at night.Anybody going there that hasn't?....................GOOD LUCK
      • 2 Months Ago
      I guess I shouldn't complain about my 5 minute commute by bicycle.
        • 2 Months Ago
        Arn't you special.
      • 2 Months Ago
      For the truth about the parasite invader criminals from south of the border be sure to watch ; BORDER WARS TONITE ON NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC BEGINNING AT 8 PM.
      • 2 Months Ago
      For the truth about the parasite invader criminals from south of the border be sure to watch ; BORDER WARS TONITE ON NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC BEGINNING AT 8 PM.
      • 2 Months Ago
        • 2 Months Ago
        Our borders have been open since the 1950's or when the Mexican gov't quit feeding its own people.They've been meddling in our politics since then too.
      Angela Saunders
      • 2 Months Ago
      Commuting is less of a pain in London than many other places for one reason. People who drive into London during working hours get slapped with a "congestion fee" or pay heavy fines. Beside, no one in their right mind would drive in London. Public transportation is ubiquitous and very convenient.
      • 2 Months Ago
      • 2 Months Ago
      • 3 Years Ago
      I glad to see Boston was named in the list of congested cities for driving. A while ago they had a list of the worst cities as far as DUIs. Boston wasn't even in the top twenty. But after living here all my life I realized the way people drive in Boston it's immpossible to determined who's drunk and who's not.
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