Traffic Jams Are Slowly Making A Comeback In India’s Metros
Traffic snarls, common across India’s metropolitan cities, gave way to deserted roads as the Covid-19 pandemic forced the country into lockdown and citizens into their homes. Even as nationwide restrictions have been gradually lifted, the continued rise in the number of infections has meant that activity levels have remained well below normal.
In recent weeks though, some indicators of traffic congestion and mobility, have some shown a pick-up suggesting increased activity across metros. The TomTom Traffic Index, which measures the additional travel time spent in traffic, has risen across most cities in the last two weeks.
- Mumbai saw the sharpest jump in congestion on its roads, as drivers spent an additional 24% time in traffic compared to 17% at the end of July.
- In New Delhi, where active coronavirus cases have remained under control in recent weeks, drivers spent an additional 27% time in traffic in mid-August. The city showed a pick-up in activity levels starting July.
- In Bengaluru, traffic congestion had risen in June, but a second wave of coronavirus cases had forced the state government to announce fresh lockdowns. Traffic has begun to once again pick up, with drivers spending 25% additional time in traffic compared to 23% in end- July.
- Pune saw a rise in congestion levels with traffic adding 23% to the average journey in mid-August compared to 18% in end-July.
Apple’s mobility trends also showed similar trends.
As of Aug. 17, mobility in the driving category was 19% below the Jan. 13, 2020, baseline. A fortnight ago, as on July 31, mobility in this category was 30.49% below baseline. Mobility in the walking category was 26% below baseline on Aug. 17, compared to 36.24% lower a fortnight ago.
Not all indicators have improved.
Community mobility reports by Google, continue to show sluggish activity in a number of segments. For instance, mobility to workplaces is still 42% below a pre-pandemic baseline level, trips for retail and recreation are 56% below the levels seen before the pandemic hit.
In a report dated Aug.18, Jefferies said that urban indicators are improving.
Receding coronavirus concerns in top cities led to the third successive week of improvement in urban trends, the research house said. Congestion levels climbed again by 4 percentage points on a week-on-week basis, and are now 23 percentage points up from July lows, the report said.
Some other urban indices which have improved week-on-week include workplace mobility (4 percentage points), realty portal traffic (6 percentage points) and domestic/international flights schedules (5-10 percentage points). Domestic and international flights schedules are still ~70-72% off peaks.Jefferies Report
Suvodeep Rakshit, senior economist at Kotak Institutional Equities, said mobility indices have trended higher over the past couple of weeks after a bit of slack in July. This could be due to improvement in urban areas, especially Delhi and Mumbai which have seen active cases reduce, he said.
While Delhi now accounts for 1.6% of all active cases in the country, Mumbai accounts for 2.6% of active cases. Pune and urban Bengaluru still make up over a tenth of all active cases in the country.
The share of active cases has risen in rural areas which may not necessarily be reflected in the mobility indices. These indices will not necessarily reflect actual level of economic activity but should help more from a directional trend, Rakshit said.