Motorists are spending longer in traffic jams than before the corona pandemic. Working from home no longer offers any relief. Three reasons why the road is so busy. ‘Everyone travels at the same time.’
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This year, motorists will once again have to wait in traffic jams during the morning and evening rush hours. After two quiet years due to corona, traffic jams will be higher again in 2023. In nine of the first eleven months of 2023 there were more traffic jams than in the same period in 2019. And in rainy November there were again many and long traffic jams, according to ANWB figures. How is it possible that traffic jams have become longer again despite the popular working from home?
Employees go to the office on the same days
During the corona pandemic, office employees have become accustomed to working from home, but they now all get into the car on the same day for joint consultations. There is an increase in the number of traffic jams, especially on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
“Working from home has a dampening effect on traffic to a certain extent, so there is now less traffic than was expected before corona,” says Marije Hamersma, researcher at the Knowledge Institute for Mobility Policy (KiM). Recent research by TNO showed that nowadays only 65 percent of employees work on location every day, compared to 71 percent in 2019. The number of hours working from home has also increased, from an average of 2.6 hours per week in 2019 to an average of 6.8 hours. in 2023.
However, working from home causes a kind of waterbed effect. The relative peace on some days is ‘compensated’ with extra hustle and bustle on days when all colleagues are in the office at the same time. Traffic jam figures from the ANWB show that the morning rush hour on Tuesday in particular has increased considerably in 2023. There are extra crowds across the board, especially during the evening rush hour. The number of traffic jams also increases on quieter Wednesdays. Remarkably, it is so quiet on Friday mornings these days that you can hardly speak of a morning rush hour.
It is not only busy on the road, the NS also sees an increase in crowds on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Although KiM concludes in a recent report that the use of public transport has lagged behind after the lifting of the corona measures, many travelers still complain about busy trains during rush hour.
More cars on the road
Due to the steady growth of the population and the strong economy, the number of motorists is increasing every year. And with more vehicles on the road and road construction coming to a standstill, the number of traffic jams almost automatically increases.
“Everything was different during corona, of course, but we have been seeing for a few years that there will be a growth in traffic in the medium term,” says researcher Hamersma. The fact that income is increasing again means that more cars are being sold.
There are now eleven million motor vehicles (cars, vans, trucks and motorcycles) in use in the Netherlands, according to figures from the BOVAG. In 2014 there were more than a million fewer. The increase in the number of motor vehicles is not ‘made up for’ by a comparable expansion of the road network.
In March 2023, Minister Mark Harbers of Infrastructure and Water Management also informed the House of Representatives that the construction of new bridges and roads would be halted due to the nitrogen crisis. The government will use the money that was released, approximately 7.5 billion euros, for ‘much needed maintenance’ of existing infrastructure.
Lots of major roadworks
Major road maintenance also increases traffic congestion. In 2023, the number of road works was no greater than in other years, according to data from Rijkswaterstaat. But the impact of the work could be higher, according to Rijkswaterstaat. For example, there are some infamous works that have caused a lot of traffic disruption.
Take, for example, the renovation of the Haringvliet Bridge on the A29. Since August 2021, the speed limit on the bridge has been reduced to 50 kilometers per hour and the lanes have been narrowed. From June to August the bridge was even completely closed to road traffic.
Traffic jam data kept by Rijkswaterstaat shows that work this year has already led to more than a million kilometer minutes (for every minute that there was a 1 kilometer traffic jam) in traffic jams. That is more than in the past seven years.
In the coming years, the Knowledge Institute for Mobility Policy expects an increase in the kilometers traveled on the road and thus an increase in ‘travel time loss’, or delay. It therefore does not appear that there will be a decrease in traffic jams anytime soon. The plans to regulate traffic jams through road pricing were put on hold before the elections. It is therefore unclear whether road pricing will provide a solution in the short term. While spreading the use of the road is one of the most logical solutions. “If you think about solutions: many people now travel at the same time,” says researcher Hamersma. “If we all stopped traveling during rush hour, we might be able to spread out the crowds a bit.”