scorecardThe most congested cities in India low lie vacant midst the nationwide lockdown
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The most congested cities in India low lie vacant midst the nationwide lockdown

The most congested cities in India low lie vacant midst the nationwide lockdown
IndiaIndia5 min read

  • The roads of India's most congested cities lie vacant midst the lockdown saving travellers more than 8 hours of traffic time.
  • Pictures show how the roads of Bengaluru, Mumbai, Pune, and New Delhi are no longer filled with bumper-to-bumper traffic amidst the Coronavirus pandemic in India.
  • According to Tom Tom's traffic index, Bengaluru isn't just the most congested city in India, but the world.
India's roads are known for being some of the most congested in the world. However, with the nationwide lockdown to combat the spread of coronavirus, these roads are finally seeing some relief.

Instead of traffic jams that last hours on end, the roads now lie empty as everyone stays home. This is reflected in the drastic fall of requests for directions on Apple's navigation apps as per data released for up to April 16.


The massive traffic on the roads doesn't just take a toll on the environment by boosting air pollution but has staggering costs for the economy. The cities that bear the worst of it are Bengaluru, Mumbai, Pune and New Delhi.

Bengaluru is the most congested city in the world — but not during the lockdown
According to Tom Tom's traffic index, Bengaluru isn't just the most congested city in India — but all over the world. It beat out 415 other cities across 57 countries that are covered to earn that title in 2019.

Drivers in India's 'Silicon Valley' spent an extra 58 minutes per an hour's trip during the morning rush and extra 70 minutes in the evening rush. Due to the lockdown, average congestion is down by as much as 90%.

Tom Tom estimates that people wasted at least 243 hours — that's 10 days and 3 hours — in rush hours over the year. In that time they could have watched 215 Game of Thrones episodes.

India's film city used to lead the index
Prior to Bengaluru in 2019, the top spot was held by India's financial capital and film city — Mumbai. In 2019, it slipped to the second most congested city in India and the fourth rank on the global index.

Drivers there spent an average of 48 minutes extra per hour, during the morning rush and an extra 62 minutes in the evening.

All that extra time adds up to 8 days and 17 hours wasted over the entire year. In that time, travellers could have knitted 52 hats and 10 sweaters — not that they would need them in coastal city's sweltering weather.

And, Mumbai's sister city — Pune — is almost just as bad
Right after Mumbai, its sister city Pune is ranked fifth the most congested city globally — and third in India. The worst hour to be on the roads was Friday's from 7 pm to 8 pm, more than doubling the time that it would take to get from point A to point B.

The time lost in rush hours in Pune is 8 days and an hour per year. That's the duration required to plant 193 trees — or solve 39 jigsaw puzzles — according to Tom Tom.

The national capital New Delhi is no exception
India's capital city, New Delhi, has worked on many a solution to try and combat the burgeoning traffic problems in the city — including wider roads, elevated roads, alternative routes, underpasses and other things.

However, people in the city still spend an extra 7 days and 22 hours in traffic every year. Like in the other cities, it takes nearly double the time to travel during the evening rush hours and an extra 44 minutes per hour in the morning.

According to a study by the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), the crisis costs the national capital an extra ₹54,000 crore in 2013. Using data from Google they were able to estimate that it wasn't just the peak hours that were bad for the city. During the 12 hours between 8 am to 8 pm, cars were only able to exceed speeds of 30 kilometres per hour 8% of the time.

With the nationwide lockdown in place, traffic in these cities has virtually disappeared. However, this doesn't mean that the problems have been solved. Once this temporary reprieve is over, these cities will still have a high number of cars, bumper-to-bumper traffic congestion and the usual grid gridlock during peak travel times will make its return.

How can we keep the congestion from making a return?
To keep things from returning to how they were during pre-Coronavirus times, making more roads can't be the only answer. Some studies show that building more roads actually induces even more traffic.

Instead, CSE suggests that the respective governments should focus more on public transport strategies, walking infrastructure and appropriate pricing of car usage to actually curb motorisation.

In Brazil's Sao Paulo carpools and use of public transport has already proven how these solutions can be beneficial for both, the government and private companies.

Beijing and Shanghai were one of the first adopters of transport demand management (TDM) in China. They used measures like license auctioning, parking certificates, and building up their public transport infrastructure.

In London, congestion pricing reduced vehicle travel by 17% and, in San Francisco, real-time parking pricing dues the miles travelled by cars by 30%. In most places, TDM measures are driven by the public sector but their tangible results once the private sector catches up.

In India, the government in Bengaluru has started talking to the private sector to discuss things like shifting how employees commute to work.

See also:
Before and after pictures show how the Coronavirus travel ban brought airlines to a grinding halt since March
Weather maps show how India’s Coronavirus lockdown is helping people breathe a little better