Marathon Commuters: Which nationalities spend most time travelling to and from work?

AI of Things    14 December, 2016
Just 600 cities are projected to create more than 60% of global economic growth by 2025.  Our reluctance to distribute population outside of these urban powerhouses has caused city property prices to rise astronomically and our infrastructure hasn’t always been able to grow fast enough to accommodate the growing number of commuters around the world.

In the UK, the number of people spending more than two hours travelling to and from work every day has increased to 72% over the past decade to more than 3 million people, according to research by TUC.  In fact, British commuters spend more than a tenth of their disposable income on annual rail tickets as the BBC mentioned in this 2016 report.  This expensive and exhausting process has even caused some workers to consider commuting between countries (e.g. Barcelona to London) – a model which is clearly not aligned with the Sustainable Development Goals set by the UN.
However, this culture of “marathon commuting” in the UK is not a consistent problem across the whole of Europe. Although the UK has the highest percentage of journey times over 2 hours (30%), countries like Madrid, Paris and Berlin are much lower at just 15% – suggesting that either their public transport infrastructure is better or people live closer to where they work, among other reasons.

Average commutes
Figure 2: Average commute times in metropolitan areas with over 1 million residents.
This is something that we decided to analyze, using our mobile data product, Smart Steps.  Although comparably Barcelona doesn’t have the worst commuting challenge (as you can see above), we worked alongside Barcelona City Council and Bestiario, looking at anonymized and aggregated Big Data to map commuting patterns in the city. By identifying home and work locations, we were able to understand the flow of workers and students around the 73 districts of Barcelona – providing insights on how long people spend commuting, their demographic profile and how far they live from their work. The study is explained in the video below:

Barcelona has become a hub for innovation when it comes to taking a data-driven approach towards urban planning and mobility.  With a population of 4.6 million in the wider urban area and a population density of over 16,000 people per square kilometre, as well as a thriving tourism industry – using cutting-edge Big Data and Internet of Things technology has become fundamental in optimizing the city to make it greener.
A great example of this approach is the Barcelona Ciutat Digital plan, which prioritizes Smart City and Open Data projects to improve the quality of life for citizens. This innovation and transparency is crucial in ensuring that Barcelona continues to to drive an even more sustainable model when it comes to commuting, mobility and traffic.

Here at LUCA, we are aware of the great challenges facing cities when it comes to sustainability. We also understand that the actions policy makers need to take go much further than monitoring and measurement. However, we strongly believe that becoming data-driven is the best place for the public sector to start. To find out more, visit our website or contact us here.

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