The cost of time lost

By Kirsty Debono, Nationalist MP

Time is money! ... a saying that is undoubtedly crossing our minds ever so often.  Every morning we are stuck in traffic on our way to work, while running our daily errands, while carrying out our duties out and about, students on their way to lectures or on our way back home... when one stops and think about the time being wasted in traffic or while waiting for public transport, one can come to various conclusions on the quantitative financial loss each one of us is suffering.

On a wider perspective it is a well known fact that traffic congestion is increasingly becoming an obstacle to the country’s economic growth, in particular to our businesses, to the country’s competitiveness in attracting foreign investment and also to tourism – a major economic pillar to our country.

This week while debating budget estimates for the Transport Ministry, I spoke about the financial loss traffic congestion alone is costing our economy. Opting for a very, if not too conservative but realistic approach, I referred to a study carried out in July of this year by eCubed Consultants, which analysed the commuting costs Gozitan workers incur, to work in Malta. This report was drawn up as part of a study to estimate the cost benefits of transport options to Gozo with particular reference to the permanent link.

According to this report an average working hour of work costs €15.07, while the average cost of an hour of leisure or a non-working hour is €4.61. I decided to base my study on these rates to ensure a most objective analysis. Quoting the latest NSO statistics that the number of Gainfully Occupied currently stands at 170,548 and assuming that only a third of the population encounters traffic congestion in their daily life, and also considering that just this third of the population wastes an average of just one hour a week in traffic... this alone costs the taxpayer €44.6 million a year.

When also considering only a third of the University, Junior College and MCAST student population who are caught no more than an hour in traffic per week, the cost of their non working time foregone for our students, during their scholastic year alone, when stuck in traffic or waiting for public transportation is of €1.26 million.

Thus, it is realistic to say that traffic congestion is costing the working and student populations no less than €46 million a year. I stress the point that such an estimate is ultra conservative, as it is assuming that two-thirds of the working and student population do not encounter any traffic congestion and that the influenced third of the population, experience just an our hour of traffic a week, meaning that their time stuck in traffic during the week is just of 12 minutes a day!

Such a study is not taking into consideration the time wasted in traffic or waiting for public transportation encountered by those who are not registered as Gainfully Occupied, such as the pensioners, the unemployed and the housewives, but still whose time is just as valuable and who are foregoing their leisure time when stuck in traffic.

The traffic problem together with the failure of public transport has got out of hand. If the Government really wants to entice us to use public transport when the service is improved, it should embark on a pet project to install a cultural change in the population. This can be achieved if part of the €23 million subsidy and counting, that the Government is forking out will be passed on directly to the people,  by temporarily offering the public free tokens for public transportation.

In return, if the service is satisfactory, the Government will be embarking on a positive public cultural change towards public transportation. Let us not forget that this year, every  taxpayer forfeited €176 and next year I’m envisaging that the burden will not be any less and for what?...

Each and every one of us can come to their own conclusions...

Kirsty Debono is a Nationalist MP