The Straits Times/ANN
Drivers in Thailand have it worst with road congestion, according to a new survey on traffic conditions across 38 countries worldwide.
Thailand leads with the highest average hours spent in peak congestion (61 hours) last year, ahead of Colombia and Indonesia (47 hours) as well as Russia and the United States (42 hours).
The Global Traffic Scorecard survey, conducted by US-based transportation analytics firm Inrix, also showed Los Angeles topping the list of the world's most gridlocked cities. Drivers there spent 104 hours last year in traffic jams during peak congestion periods.
Five of the top 10 traffic-congested cities in the world were also in the United States.
The survey showed drivers in Singapore spent an average of 10.5 hours stuck in congestion last year.
The Thai capital, meanwhile, ranked 12th overall among the most congested cities in the world, with drivers spending an average of 64.1 hours stuck in traffic last year. Traffic apparently worsened in the city, which was ranked 30th in 2015.
Experts blame private cars for congesting Bangkok's roads, especially after sales spiked in 2011 following the introduction of tax breaks for first-time buyers by the government under then-Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra.
According to statistics from the Ministry of Transport, new car sales in 2011 totalled three million. But car sales have been steadily declining in the last four years due to weaker demand, totalling 2.69 million in 2016.
The auto industry expects to see a spike in sales this year as the government's five-year tax incentive scheme ends, allowing car owners to sell their old cars and buy new ones.
Aside from the volume of vehicles, accidents, floods as well as the bad driving habits of the Thais' have been cited previously by traffic officials as causes for street jams.
But Dr Vallop Suwandee, chief adviser to the Bangkok governor, said the Inrix survey does not state its criteria clearly.
"The survey does not reflect the existing scenario," Dr Vallop told The Straits Times over the telephone. "Based on my personal experience and opinions from overseas guests, Bangkok conditions are in fact getting better compared with five or 10 years ago."
He added that the government has made extensive investments in mass transit projects and building expressways and motorways.
Last year, the government called on experts to brainstorm together on how to address the traffic problem in Bangkok.
Median strips on certain roads were removed to create more space for cars and ease traffic bottlenecks.
There was also a proposal to set up a traffic court for a more efficient handling of fines.
The Mass Rapid Transit Authority of Thailand is also expanding Bangkok's Green Line, which is known as the Sukhumvit Line and runs from the western to eastern parts of the metropolis.
Elsewhere in Asia, Jakarta was also among the cities with the worst traffic congestion, ranking 22nd in the survey.
Inrix, however, did not include other cities notorious for traffic jams such as Manila, Mumbai and Saigon. It said it analysed data from 300 million cars and devices using Inrix-based traffic services.
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