Thursday, September 27, 2012

One Hundred Mile Long Traffic Jams

It sounds like the stuff of fiction or parody, but it’s a reality in much of the developing world. Here’s São Paulo:
Friday evenings are a commuter's worst nightmare in Sao Paulo.

That's when all the tailbacks in and out of the city extend for a total of 180km (112 miles), on average, according to local traffic engineers, and as long as 295km (183 miles) on a really bad day. Red brake lights stretch as far back as the eye can see, blinking repeatedly as drivers endure an exasperating stop-and-go journey, which can continue for hours.

"It's like a sea. A sea of cars," says Fabiana Crespo, as she slowly navigates the congested streets with her 10-month-old baby Rodrigo. For Crespo it's a journey that can take more than two hours of her day - each way.

Traffic jams cause problems all over the world, and not just for drivers, but in Sao Paulo they have become more than a nuisance. Heavy traffic is an integral part of life and culture in this vast city of more than 11m people."We have become slaves of traffic and we have to plan our lives around it," says Crespo.

Another example of the absolute insanity of our modern technology. For the record, the problem is not technology, it’s how we use it. Just because we have the capability for personal mobility does not mean every single individual in a society must have their own personal carriage at their beck-and-call and people and businesses should be scattered across the landscape willy-nilly. This is the problem when we decide that everything should develop anarchically according to "the market" without planning or foresight.

Can anyone imagine traffic jams of this scale occurring in fifty years’ time with electric vehicles taking place of the gas ones? Nah, didn’t think so. And I’ve read elsewhere (sorry, didn’t bookmark) that China and India are contemplating putting restrictions on car ownership.


  1. "We have become slaves of traffic and we have to plan our lives around it," says Crespo.

    Crespo has just described life in Los Angeles for the past three decades. That's one thing about my old home town that I don't miss here in metro Detroit.

  2. Some of my friends lived outside of Sao Paulo. There would be 2-hour commutes home.

    What this article might not mention is the horrible smell. One of the main roads is right next to a canal(?) that drains a lot of sewage. So 2-hours in traffic and the SMELL is there the whole time. It is horrible.

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