Despite slow growth in jobs and travel, traffic congestion continues to worsen, researchers say, costing Americans $63.1 billion a year. The 2005 Urban Mobility Report measures traffic congestion trends from 1982 to 2003, reflecting the most recent data available. If today’s higher fuel prices are factored in, the cost jumps another $1.7 billion.
The release of the annual study by the Texas Transportation Institute comes at a time when the U.S. Congress is considering legislation to re-authorize funding for transportation programs and projects across the nation. The House-passed version of the six-year bill includes a Congestion Relief Program to address urban congestion problems. “The bill includes important sections dedicated to developing a strategy to improve mobility by attacking congestion in a systematic way using an array of traffic congestion relief activities,” says study author Tim Lomax, a research engineer at TTI. Those include building more road and public transportation capacity, operating that capacity for the most efficient service and innovative pricing and truck-only lane projects.
“There is no single solution that can reverse the growth in congestion,” Lomax says. “The deliberations in Congress, decisions by state and local elected officials, the results of voter initiatives last fall and our research findings recognize that reality,” he added.
The TTI study ranks areas according to several measurements, including:
Annual delay per peak period (rush hour) traveler, which has grown from 16 hours to 47 hours since 1982,
Number of urban areas with more than 20 hours of annual delay per peak traveler, which has grown only from 5 in 1982 to 51 in 2003,
Total amount delay, reaching 3.7 billion hours in 2003, and
Wasted fuel, totaling 2.3 billion gallons lost to engines idling in traffic jams.
“Congestion is a complicated issue and can’t be solved with one approach nationwide,” Lomax said, “We need to think about how policies and programs enacted at the federal, state and local levels affect congestion.”