A study conducted by the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) has found that the average commuter in Trinidad and Tobago spends about one month annually in traffic delays.
The study notes that as a result, the direct economic cost of traffic in the CARICOM country is estimated at TT$2.26 billion annually or 1.37 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP).
The delay in traffic and its cost to the economy are two of the main findings of the study entitled “An Assessment of the economic costs of vehicle traffic congestion in the Caribbean – A case study of Trinidad and Tobago”.
ECLAC said that over the period June to September, 2023, data was collected, using online field surveys, in which respondents answered questions on their traffic congestion experience in Trinidad and Tobago.
It said a key assumption which underpinned the method is that commuters, both drivers and passengers, are best able to estimate the amount of time spent in traffic during their daily movements.
The study found that most respondents- 56 per cent female and 44 per cent male – reported that they commuted at least three times per week in self-driven private vehicles (81 per cent), carrying no passengers.
“The problem of vehicular traffic has been studied worldwide, and has significant economic, social and environmental effects. In the European Union, traffic-related loss amounts to some 1.4 per cent (200 billion Euros) of GDP. In the USA, traffic triggers an annual loss of 0.7 per cent of GDP or some US$151 million.”
ECLAC said before the publication of this research, no studies have estimated the economic impact of traffic congestion at the national level in the English-speaking Caribbean.
“This study found that the average time delays for weekday periods ranged from a low of three minutes at night, to a high of 58 minutes during the late afternoon period. On weekdays, traffic delays from 4am – 9am averaged 52 minutes.
“The average weekly time lost per worker in Trinidad and Tobago was estimated to be 793 hours, approximately 16 hours each work week. The research used hourly wage rates partitioned across the total labour force”
ECLAC said that the problem of traffic congestion has become a major challenge among Caribbean small island developing states (SIDS), especially in the context of the sub-region’s growing urbanisation and increasing levels of motorisation over the past three decades.
The study notes that the road network in Trinidad and Tobago evolved in the manner typical of SIDS, with limited land resources, economies of scale and hilly topography limiting options for expanding road infrastructure.
The study found that population growth and urban expansion outpaced the development of road networks; additionally, the high per capita car ownership of 0.5 vehicles per person is contributing to the intense traffic congestion and long commutes.
“Vehicle sales in Trinidad and Tobago continue to trend upwards. Between 2010-2019, there was an addition of approximately 15,000 new vehicles per year. While vehicle stock numbers have continuously risen, over the last four decades, road network infrastructure has a rough increase of only 0.5 per cent per year. “
The study makes policy recommendations for consideration over the short to medium term, including, continuing efforts to strengthen public transportation services, strategies to make public transportation more accessible, safe and attractive to commuters as well as enhancing the role of paratransit or auxiliary service providers.
It said increased telecommuting to reduce the need for physical commuting, especially among professional workers; further investment in a school bus service, which could mitigate school-generated tragic congestion and application of better spatial planning and traffic management tools when planning for annual and or seasonal events are also included among the recommendations.
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