IBM Study on Traffic: Yikes!

Wolfgang Bernhard, a few years ago, when he was with Volkswagen (he is now back at Daimler, responsible for Manufacturing and Procurement Mercedes-Benz and the business unit Mercedes-Benz Vans), was reflecting on his earlier experience when he was in the U.S. with DaimlerChrysler during a dinner conversation in Wolfsburg.

Wolfgang Bernhard, a few years ago, when he was with Volkswagen (he is now back at Daimler, responsible for Manufacturing and Procurement Mercedes-Benz and the business unit Mercedes-Benz Vans), was reflecting on his earlier experience when he was in the U.S. with DaimlerChrysler during a dinner conversation in Wolfsburg.

And he made a comment that has stuck with me: “Americans don’t want small cars. They want big cars. Big, inexpensive cars.”

Things have changed. Somewhat. Look out at any parking lot and you’ll still see a plethora of pickups and minivans, full-size sedans and SUVs.

But more and more, OEMs are developing smaller cars, whether it is the Scion iQ or the Chevy Cruze. There is a recognition not only that there are issues related to gasoline prices, but, particularly elsewhere on the planet. . . parking.

That’s right: parking.

According to a parking survey conducted by IBM, drivers in 20 international cities report that parking is a significant problem. As in six out of 10 report that they’ve abandoned their search for a parking space (who knows what they did then: skipped the doctor’s appointment, abandoned the car at the side of the road?). And more than 25% have gotten into an argument with another driver over a parking space (go to Costco on a Saturday afternoon if you want to see what that’s all about—and that’s nothing compared to trying to secure a spot in Manhattan).

IBM recently released its annual global Commuter Pain Survey, conducted among 8,042 commuters in 20 cities on six continents.

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And in just a year’s time—global economic problems notwithstanding—the growth in traffic and the consequent frustration has proven to be notable. “This year’s Global Commuter Pain survey indicates that drivers in cities around the world are much more unsettled and anxious compared with 2010,” said Naveen Lamba, IBM’s global intelligent transportation expert.

Oddly, respondents in 14 of 15 cities surveyed in 2010 and ’11 report that traffic had improved “somewhat” or “substantially,” yet respondents in 12 of 15 cities surveyed report that traffic has increased their stress levels. What’s more, reposndents in 11 of 15 cites said roadway traffic has made them angry, and respondents in 11 of 15 cities said that traffic has negatively affected their performance at work or school.

Here’s something to consider. Although Beijing is on the wrong side of the pain meter, according to IBM, it was reported that last year 80-billion yuan—that’s about $12.5-billion—was being spent on transportation infrastructure improvements in that city.

Maybe smaller is better going forward.  Or somewhat more calming due to being easier to park.