Traffic Congestion Worst in Three Decades

A report released Aug. 26 says that travel delays due to traffic congestion in 2014 were the worst in three decades, with those in Washington, D.C., topping the list. 

The 2015 Urban Mobility Scorecard, produced by Inrix and the Texas A&M Transportation Institute, says D.C. travelers endured 82 hours of delay per commuter, followed by Los Angeles (80 hours), San Francisco (78), New York (74) and San Jose (67). This marks the worst congestion since pre-recession days, the report says. 

Nationwide, the report says congestion kept travelers stuck in their cars for nearly 7 billion extra hours last year, or 42 hours per rush-hour commuter. It pegs the total nationwide price tag at $160 billion, or $960 per commuter. Drivers wasted more than 3 billion gallons of fuel, the report says.  

Report authors say the United States needs more roadway and transit investment to meet the demands of population growth and economic expansion, but added capacity alone can’t solve congestion problems. 

“Connectedness, big data and automation will have an immense impact over the next decade on how we travel and how governments efficiently manage the flow of people and commerce across our transportation networks,” said Jim Bak, one of the report’s authors and a director at Inrix. “This report is a great example of how data and analytics are evolving to provide transportation agencies with the insight needed to not only make our existing transportation systems work smarter, but more quickly pinpoint where investment can have a lasting impact.” 

Congress has approved 34 consecutive Highway Trust Fund patches since 2008. The Senate approved a six-year plan in July, but the House has not taken up a long-term bill yet. 

The report predicts that unless there are more assertive approaches on the project, program and policy fronts, urban roadway congestion will continue to worsen: By 2020, with a continued good economy, the total cost of congestion will jump from $160 billion to $192 billion.

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