IBM Commuter Pain Study reveals New Zealanders heavily dependent on cars for daily commute

Almost three-quarters of NZ commuters use a car alone to get to work; Resulting traffic congestion causing significant stress impacting health and productivity; Increasing public transportation key to reducing stress caused by commuting

Auckland, New Zealand - 14 Dec 2010: (NYSE: IBM) – New Zealanders are heavily dependent on the private car as a means of commuting. The use of private cars for commuting in New Zealand cities is higher relative to other international cities according to the recent findings of IBM’s New Zealand Commuter Pain study. Driving a car alone is the main mode of transportation by which 70 per cent of New Zealanders commute to and from work, university or school, amongst the highest in the world. The rising dependency on cars is driving a growing number of problems, including traffic congestion, pollution, higher fuel prices and increased driver stress.

The survey of over 900 commuters across Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch looked at differences in metropolitan commuting patterns and the effects roadway traffic and work, university and school performance have on a person’s health and lifestyle.

Surprisingly, the study also showed that the reliance on cars for the daily commute severely impacted on the nation’s health and stress levels. 80 percent of drivers find aspects of their commute frustrating. Stop start traffic (51 per cent), aggressive/rude drivers (30 per cent), low speed (27 per cent) and unreliable journey time (19 per cent) all contribute to driver frustration. As many as a quarter of drivers surveyed believe that traffic has negatively affected their health. This was highest among drivers in Auckland (30 per cent) and lowest in Christchurch (18 per cent) and Wellington (13 per cent). These findings reveal that commuter stress is impacting the health and productivity of New Zealanders at work.

However, across all New Zealand cities drivers felt that much of this stress could be reduced by the greater use of technology in the management of traffic flows, sophisticated analytics of transport systems and the adoption of more flexibility in the way we approach work.

Those commuters surveyed recognise that there is significant potential to reduce travel stress by improving public transportation (45 per cent), providing accurate and timely road conditions information (28 per cent) and introducing greater flexibility to work from home (29 per cent).  Compared to other international cities, the figures for New Zealand cities are relatively high for all of these technological solutions.

In many European and American cities around 40 per cent of commuters or more would spend at least one day a week working from home. In New Zealand this trend is much lower with only 21 per cent of those employed full-time are working from home at least one day per week.

“These findings reveal that previous traditional solutions to traffic congestion such as widening existing roads or building new ones will no longer be enough to fix this transport congestion. Instead we need more sustainable, technologically smarter solutions. We should look to focus on introducing technology that allows for traffic problems to be predicted and analysed in real-time to help solve commuter pain and ease congestion of our transport networks, ” said Dougal Watt, Chief Technology Officer, IBM New Zealand.

IBM Commuter Pain Index
IBM compiled the results of the survey into an Index that ranks the emotional and economic toll of commuting in each city on a scale of one to 100, with 100 being the most onerous. The Index reveals a tremendous disparity in the pain of the daily commute from city to city. Globally, Stockholm had the least painful commute of the cities studied, followed by Wellington, Melbourne and Houston (which all tied). Here's how the cities stack up:

IBM Commuter Pain Study - NZ index

The index is comprised of 10 issues: 1) commuting time, 2) time stuck in traffic, agreement that: 3) price of gas is already too high, 4) traffic has gotten worse, 5) start-stop traffic is a problem, 6) driving causes stress, 7) driving causes anger, 8) traffic affects work, 9) traffic so bad driving stopped, and 10) decided not to make trip due to traffic. 

Additional key findings from the study include:

An added stress on drivers in New Zealand was the increasing cost of petrol. As many as 31 per cent of those who use a car to get to work, university or school state that if petrol prices rise up to 30 per cent they will seriously consider other options like public transportation or carpooling. Currently, only 10 per cent of New Zealanders carpool regularly. If alternative transport solutions are not found New Zealand may not be able to keep up with International counterparts.

IBM New Zealand Commuter Pain Survey – Major Findings

Analysis of the survey results indicated a number of key findings related to how traffic impacts commuters:


The main mode of transport for commuting is the private car for 74 per cent of those in Auckland.



IBM Commuter Pain Study
The study conducted by Galaxy research surveyed adult drivers aged 18-64 years and included 937 respondents distributed throughout Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch during October 2010.

IBM is actively working in the area of Smarter Transportation using a worldwide team of scientists, industry experts and IT services professionals to research, test and deploy new traffic information management capabilities in cities around the world. Findings from the Commuter Pain Survey will be used to assess citizen concerns about traffic and commuter issues; expand solutions like automated tolling, real-time traffic prediction, congestion charging, and intelligent route planning; and serve as a basis for pioneering innovative new approaches to traffic mitigation.

For more information about IBM’s first global Commuter Pain survey, please visit

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IBM Commuter Pain Study - New Zealand Index

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