A busy Grand Central Station, New York City


Tackling Commuter Congestion

Reading time:  3 Minutes

Could the world’s most congested cities ease commuters’ woes with flexible working?


40% of people cite their commute as the worst part of their day. On public transport, travellers often experience crowded conditions, stress, discomfort, disruption, delay, feelings of time being ‘wasted’ and to top it off, their wallets are hit. While the cost of season tickets goes up, comfort levels are in decline, as more and more people are flocking into city centres at the same time to reach their offices. What they’re lacking, is a little flexibility.

According to a 2018 report by Inrix, the world leader in mobility analytics, the top 10 most congested cities in the world include LA, New York, Sao Paulo, London, Paris and Moscow. A separate study by navigation company TomTom, cited Mexico City, Bangkok, Jakarta and three Chinese cities: Chongqing, Beijing and Chengdu among the top contenders in the congestion test. Wherever there is an economic hub, congestion follows and frustration among commuters along with it.

The Ultra-Low Emissions Zone (ULEZ) was introduced in London this year, leading to all vehicles not considered environmentally efficient to be charged when driving inside a designated area in the city. A congestion charge had been previously introduced in 2003 in order to reduce the population’s reliance on cars in the UK’s capital city and increase use of the public transport network. Now, with the city predicted to reach 9.3 million inhabitants by 2026, public transport is feeling the strain. It’s perhaps not surprising that the Department for Transport reports that the cattle-truck conditions on some transport links has fuelled a mass exodus of workers shunning rush-hour travel. Londoners are beginning to avoid the commute in favour of working flexibly – bringing a whole host of benefits to businesses and society alike.

A busy Liverpool Street Underground Station, London

Tokyo is also looking at ways to tackle its congestion issue. Later this year, the Japanese government plans to offer a series of grants of up to three million yen (£20,698) to residents of the severely congested capital to move to a home in the country.  While in Singapore, the World Economic Forum reports that an on-demand public bus service is being trialled, utilising technology to reduce its gridlock problems, following on from similar, limited programmes in New York City and Chicago.

Government initiatives aside, the scale of the congestion problem means it will not be solved without businesses intervening. Many companies in cities with high urban densities are already adopting hybrid models that incorporate flexible working. This can leverage a positive impact on their workforce and company expenditure, since capital and operational expenditure costs in the flexible working model are covered by providers.

Research has shown that that switching to flexible working, working closer to home or cutting out the commute entirely could reduce levels of carbon dioxide emissions by 214 million tonnes per year, by 2030. Furthermore, if the growth in flexible working continues to increase at its current speed, people around the world would save over 3.53 billion hours commuting every year by 2030.

Meanwhile, the nation which would see the largest annual carbon emission saving by 2030 is the United States. Flexible working is predicted to save nearly 960 million hours in commuting time, and with US commuters relying heavily on cars, the time saved translates to over 100 million tonnes of CO2.

In line with the UN’s ‘12 Years to Act on Climate Change’ campaign, actively reducing the number of commuters pouring into the world’s biggest cities may be one of the best ways that we can take action and start to roll back the clock on climate change. The benefit to businesses, is that it will be future proofed as the working world continues to modernise and more of us develop careers that work for us, through a combination of flexible working methods. 


To find out more about how flexible workspace can help your business, visit Regus