Bern: Traffic jams cost the economy 3 billion


BernCongestion costs the economy $3 billion

This figure, suggested by experts, is the total amount road users would be willing to pay to ensure they don’t have to be loitering in their vehicle.

Getting stuck on the road comes at a cost.

20mins/Taddeo Cerletti

Almost 200,000 hours are lost every day on Swiss roads because cars and trucks are stuck in traffic jams or moving slowly. And since time is money, according to new calculations by the Federal Office for Spatial Development (ARE), the costs caused by delays amounted to over CHF 3 billion in 2019 using a new calculation method (read box). When the latest figures from ARE and ASTRA were published in 2016, the cost of corks was estimated at CHF 1.6 billion. Environmental pollution, accident damage and energy from traffic jams were included in the calculation. Compared to previous years, these costs had already skyrocketed between 2010 and 2014 from 1.1 to 1.25 billion Swiss francs.

Nine out of ten hours concern passenger cars. The rest is represented by vans and heavy traffic. Vehicles stand still particularly often and for long periods on main roads. Congestion on highways accounts for only 17% of lost time. Road users lose the most time on weekdays, and little on weekends or on the holiday route (12% of the total time). Most of the time it’s the same sections at certain times.

The ARE detects delays on the road based on a comparison with the traffic jam-free travel time at night. The costs correspond to the amount that road users would be willing to pay to avoid these delays (or loss of comfort in public transport). To put it another way: in Switzerland, road users would be willing to pay a total of around 3 billion Swiss francs if they were guaranteed no delays in road traffic and no loss of comfort in public transport.

Better than the European average

For the first time, the AER also identified a loss of comfort in public transport caused by the overcrowding of trains, buses and trams at peak times. This loss of comfort causes costs of 27 million Swiss francs. However, the figures also show that, in international comparison, Switzerland has a very efficient transport infrastructure. The delay time per inhabitant is below the average of the countries of the European Union, although the population density in Switzerland is comparatively very high. However, delays can be further reduced through targeted expansion of the infrastructure, shifting passenger and freight traffic to public transport and rail, and smoothing out traffic peaks.

Areas for Improvement

The federal government’s strategic development program for rail infrastructure and national roads, as well as the urban transport program, aim to improve the transport system. The Federal Roads Office relies on measures that must take effect quickly, such as the harmonization of speeds and regulations at the entrances and exits of federal roads. Other measures to avoid traffic congestion during rush hours include making working and teaching times more flexible, and increasing teleworking and the number of video conferences.

Distracted driving causes 60 deaths annually

Every year, 60 road users lose their lives in accidents due to inattentiveness or distraction, and 1,100 more are seriously injured, according to the Accident Prevention Office (bpa). Almost every third driver is distracted while driving, mostly by passengers. The younger the drivers are, the more the mobile phone is the cause of the distraction. The bpa, which is launching a prevention campaign, reminds that the risk of an accident triples if you use the phone or write a message while driving.


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