One commuter’s experiment – tracking time lost to traffic

How much time does the average Cayman commuter waste in traffic? It’s a question many of us have plenty of time to ponder on the long, slow drive into George Town.

There is little concrete data to work from for the island so the best we can do is estimate.

Global scorecard

Transportation analytics firm INRIX compiles a ‘global scorecard’ of the world’s most congested areas. It compares journey times at peak-traffic hours with journey times during ‘free flow’ conditions when traffic moves at normal speeds.

Using that methodology, the firm calculated that, on average, American commuters waste 97 hours of their lives in traffic each year. Boston was the worst city in the US, with commuters wasting 164 hours annually.

Cayman was not included in the analysis and it is difficult to project average times for the country without access to better data. Still, I was curious to know how our traffic woes compare.

One commuter’s experiment

My own commute is far from the worst in Cayman – just over four miles form the Ocean Club in Prospect to the Compass building in George Town. I don’t have kids to drop off at school along the way and my office is on the edge of the town, right off the highway.

To get accurate data for the height of rush hour, I set off at the worst possible time, 8 am, and used the Strava App to track the journey.

The statistics make for interesting reading – 4.45 miles covered in 54 minutes and 9 seconds at an average speed of 4.9 miles per hour.

At some point, though I can’t think where it might have been, I hit an improbable maximum speed of 28 mph.

That’s an extreme version of the journey, taking an ill-advised ‘short cut’ through Prospect Point Road at the worst time on a particularly busy day.

Still it gave me a taste of what motorists who must navigate a network of slow-moving residential side roads before hitting the main highways must endure.

On the way home, it was a little swifter going, following the East-West Arterial Highway and then Shamrock Road the whole way to cover 4.39 miles in a little under 38 minutes at the comparatively breakneck average speed of 7 mph.

Without traffic, if you stick closely to the speed limit, the journey takes around 10 minutes. I logged it at 7pm and it came in at 9 mins 45 seconds at an average speed of 25.1 mph.

So how does that compare globally?

Based on those journey times, if I travel those routes at those times, I would lose 44 minutes in the morning and 28 minutes in the evening, compared with free-flowing traffic times. That is 72 minutes every day – six hours a week – for 48 working weeks every year. Do the maths and that adds up to 288 hours annually.

I can shave some minutes off that by tweaking my route and my journey time slightly, but with an 8:30am to 5pm work day, my commute rarely comes in at less than 40 minutes each way – or to use the INRIX methodology, the time I am losing in traffic is at least 240 hours every year.

Among world’s worst

If my commute is typical of the average Cayman Islands driver, then we would be near the top of the charts for the most congested places in the world – up there with Moscow, Russia, and Bogota, Colombia.

To be clear – that is not total time spent commuting, but the ‘time lost’ compared with making the same journey in free-flowing traffic. The size of the island means our commutes are still significantly shorter than for larger countries.

Without more data or a scientifically controlled research project it is difficult to say exactly how we compare to the rest of the world but for those in the eastern districts at least, we can legitimately say we are losing more time in traffic than most.

Want to help us get better data?

Track your commute and send us the stats to [email protected]