Mumbai’s congestion is infamous. The megacity’s roads are clogged every single day, leading to something far worse than simple inconvenience. It means the destruction of the city’s ability to fulfil its most basic function of bringing people and organisations together. When cities function well, firms can optimise the costs of finding workers and of transporting goods and services to consumers. Workers, in turn, are able to find jobs matching their skillset and are more likely to switch. Ease of mobility is key in ensuring such markets function smoothly.

Mumbai had a population of more than 12 million when the country’s last census was conducted in 2011. The economic powerhouse is one of the densest cities in the world. Between 2011-12 and 2014-15, it accounted for around 17% of Maharashtra’s GDP. In 2018-19, Mumbai tax, customs and excise collections formed nearly 30% of India’s total tax revenue. Some 700,000 people enter the city every day.

We aimed to unearth the extent of Mumbai’s congestion, quantify its economic and environmental costs and provide actionable results for policymakers by identifying chokepoints. Uber Movement data fed into our novel approach, showing that long commutes impose economic and environmental costs to the citizens of Mumbai; we developed a new methodology to quantify these costs.

The average commute on Mumbai’s major routes is longer than an hour, more than double the averages of Singapore, Hong Kong and New York. We found that every petrol-fueled daily round trip commute between Borivali and Lower Parel costs more than INR 350 due to congestion. This implies that those living in Borivali are unlikely to seek jobs in Lower Parel, a demonstration of a fragmented labour market and the hampering of economic productivity.

To assist policymakers in eradicating congestion, we identified chokepoints that should be addressed through granular interventions depending on existing infrastructure and traffic conditions at these bottlenecks. Improving mobility on such routes will be a key factor in ensuring productivity that, in turn, will aid the economic growth of Mumbai.

This research can be further developed and used by academics as well as policymakers. Academics can apply a similar methodology to analyse other cities. Policymakers can use this research to address and remove chokepoints on major routes leading to improved economic productivity. Lastly, a cross-collaboration can be undertaken between academics and policymakers through this research where academics design granular interventions to eradicate chokepoints which can then be implemented by policymakers.

Based on paper’s findings, we also developed an interactive web tool that allows users to select locations in Mumbai and immediately see the route between them, colour-coded by average speeds on it. On top of that, users are shown the cost of their trip — in terms of distance, opportunity cost, fuel and released carbon dioxide.