Traffic is a finite resource.
But for some commuters, the scarcity is a real challenge.
A new report by New Scientist finds that even when the traffic congestion is low, the commute is often worse.
The study finds that when traffic is scarce, commuters are likely to get on a bus, rather than a train, even if it is cheaper to drive.
And when the commute has become so expensive, it is likely to cost commuters more to drive, rather to walk, the report found.
The findings are based on a survey of 6,000 people in the UK who use public transport.
The survey, carried out by the Transport for London (TfL), asked respondents about how much money they would spend if they could buy the time they needed to commute.
They were asked to pick one of three options: 1) they would buy time to commute on the cheapest available public transport option 2) they’d spend less money, but still get the same amount of time 3) they wouldn’t buy time at all.
The researchers found that while the average person who said they would “buy time” would spend around £1,300, when asked how much time they’d get from the transport service, only 20 per cent of people said they’d buy time.
In contrast, people who said that they would not “buy” time would spend more than £6,500.
It’s a lot of money for an average commuter, but not necessarily for a very large proportion of commuters.
When the researchers compared how much they’d pay for time using public transport to how much it would cost if they didn’t use it, the figures became much more stark.
When asked how many minutes they’d be able to use public transportation for, an average person would have to spend more £1.30 than they would for using a train.
Similarly, an individual who says they’d “not” buy time would have had to spend over £3,300 in order to use the transport network.
The transport system cost more than a million pounds ($4,000) per year.
It was a staggering sum of money, and it could mean that some people simply had to choose between the commute and their jobs.
The report also found that commuters who were not able to “buy”, even if they had the option to do so, tended to have poorer results.
For instance, those who said “I wouldn’t pay” would be less likely to spend money on “renting”, which means taking out a mortgage, buying an extra home, or buying a second home.
This may not seem like a huge financial blow, but it means that if someone wants to work, they may not be able afford to buy a car or a home to go with it.
In other words, they are putting off spending money, in a way that makes their lives more expensive.
“The real problem for commuters is that it doesn’t seem to be getting better,” says James Cavanagh, one of the authors of the study.
“It is simply getting worse.”
The authors say that the data on the cost of commuting shows that public transport isn’t always the most cost-effective mode of transport.
In some cases, the cost to get to work is actually cheaper, as people have less time to travel.
“There are some really basic things that we need to do in order for people to have the money to travel in the first place,” says Mr Cavanag.
“For example, we need a system of fares that would give people the choice of taking public transport or not.”