A year and a half after everything changed due to the pandemic and Madrid’s roads were left empty due to confinement and teleworking, the capital has returned to the usual traffic collapse before the coronavirus crisis. The traffic jams of this October 4 have equaled the average congestion of any other Monday before March 2019, according to municipal data.
The calculation, carried out by the Mobility and Environment area, is included in the report that the City Council publishes every day commenting on the state of traffic in the city: “Start of the week with high traffic levels and significant retentions”, begins his analysis, in which he highlights the traffic jams “in the main urban axes in the north direction, in the accesses from radial or M-30 to Almendra Central and especially in large areas of M-30, a consequence of the high intensity and various incidents of serious affection “, details.
Although the report only counts the data of the rush hour of traffic on the M-30, which runs from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m., the analysis highlights that the end of the retentions lasted a little longer this Monday: about 10.30 am in the west arch and 10.40 am in the east arch. As usual, the congestion was more focused on the outer arch of the Madrid ring road than on the inside, as can be seen in the following graph that compares traffic jams with the average of a pre-pandemic Monday.
Among the factors that have helped the increase in traffic jam kilometers are several accidents that took place at key points in the north and south, where any reduction in the pace ends up affecting the entire environment. There was also a commuter train driver strike, which caused a reduction in service and caused some of its users to switch to private transport today. And since this week, a lane of the M-30 is cut off at the height of the old Vicente Calderón, due to the works in the Madrid Río area. The only thing missing was the rain, which had it appeared this Monday instead of Sunday could have unleashed a real day of chaos on the Madrid roads.
The situation differs enormously from that registered just a year ago, still without vaccines against Covid-19 and with an economic activity highly focused on teleworking. Then the traffic jams were 4.95 kilometers on average, only on the outer road. The data corroborates a perception that users of Madrid’s roads have been noticing throughout the month of September: that traffic was increasing and that getting stuck in a traffic jam was becoming more and more frequent.
In addition to the retentions on the M-30, the municipal report highlights a list of streets in which there were also significant traffic jams at the beginning of the week: on the Delicias, Prado and Recoletos promenades between Ferrocarril and Colón, Alfonso XII between Rondas and pc. Independencia, Menéndez Pelayo between Comercio and Alcalá, Dr. Esquerdo from Cavanilles to Goya, Bulevares de Vallehermoso to gta. Bilbao, Costa Rica from M-30 to Paseo de la Habana and in Cea Bermúdez from Bravo Murillo to the Cristo Rey tunnel.
The Metro, 83% of users
The recovery in congestion levels at the entrances to Madrid has not been accompanied by the same rate of use in public transport. The Madrid Metro still has 83.3% of users than on the equivalent dates two years ago, according to company data from last Friday. Then 1.8 million trips were registered on the network, compared to 2.2 million on average in 2019 during weekdays. The suburban record came on Black Friday that year, with 2.7 million trips.
Regarding municipal buses, the Municipal Transport Company (EMT) is transporting 1.2 million passengers a day in its buses (data from last Friday) and another 12,000 in Bicimad. The figures exceed 70% occupancy compared to the time before the pandemic.
More immediate traffic jams, then maybe not
Will there be even more traffic jams in the city? “It is not known, although at an early stage the level of traffic jams could increase by 10% or 20% with respect to the pandemic, we may even experience a rainy day with an apocalypse on the M-30”, warns Adrián Fernández, spokesman of Mobility in Greenpeace. However, it is not all bad news: Fernández believes that many of the users who chose the car because until recently there were few retentions will return to public transport “when they see that they have to spend an hour or an hour and a half stuck.”
“In the spectrum of car users there are many types, some do not have many alternatives because it would take much longer in other media,” says Miguel Álvarez, engineer and member of the Nación Rotonda collective. “But on the other side of the spectrum there is also the person who takes the car because of a mixture that he did not like to get into public transport, but that he had used the subway all his life and that he will return to it because his family is already there. vaccinated, “he says. “Nobody arrives at work 45 minutes late for three weeks because of traffic jams. People change their routines: they will get up early or change the means of transport,” he adds.
The experts consulted recall that there are still groups to return to daily mobility: among them those who leave unemployment, those who change telework for physical presence and those who are in ERTE, who have just seen this period extended until the beginning of 2022. “As people are incorporated into face-to-face activities, the car is recovering much faster than public transport,” warns the Civil Engineer Samir Awad.
The ‘carmaggedon’ that could have arrived in September has not yet been produced
– Rotonda Nation
In order for the system to rebalance itself, in addition to the personal decisions that some travelers transfer to one or another means of transport, the administrations can do their part. “It is urgent to promote public transport through the offer, with more trains, more buses and priority for this type of movement,” Awad claims, in what agrees with Adrián Fernández. “There is a lack of more train drivers and HOV bus lanes,” they say from Greenpeace, who see as something “disappointing” not having “learned anything” about mobility during the pandemic and that the automobile “continues to have the same prevalence status quo.”
Since the impact of the coronavirus, municipal policies in Madrid focused on creating more bus lanes in the city to improve the passage times of the EMT lines. All city bus tickets were also given away during the first week of September, to try to attract users to public transport. In the sustainable mobility section, some cycle routes were created without taking space away from the car, a line of action that will also be followed in the first part of the Castellana Bike Path, whose tender is about to see the light of day.
Will these measures and others included in Madrid 360 be enough to stop the increase in traffic jams? “The carmaggedon It could have arrived in September, but we will have to see how the next few months evolve, when the whole world moves again, “says Miguel Álvarez with caution.