Is congestion getting worse? Yes. There are several statistics that point to worsening congestion levels. Congestion extends to more time of the day, more roads, affects more of the travel, and creates more extra travel time than in the past. And congestion levels have risen in cities of all sizes since 1982, indicating that even the smaller areas are not able to keep pace with rising demand.
Figure ES.1 illustrates trends for 75 major urban areas tracked in the Texas Transportation Institute's Annual Mobility Report.1 Congestion levels have risen to levels experienced by the next largest population group every 10 years — in 2001, cities between 500,000 and one million people experienced the congestion of cities between one and three million in 1992.
Congestion has clearly grown. Congestion used to mean it took longer to get to/from work in the "rush hour." But congestion now affects more trips, more hours of the day and more of the transportation system. Figure ES.2 shows the growth in several key dimensions of the congestion problem in cities of more than one million persons.
• The average weekday peak-period trip takes almost 40 percent longer than the same trip in the middle of the day, compared to 13 percent longer in 1982.
• Sixty-seven percent of the peak-period travel is congested compared to 33 percent in 1982. Travelers in 75 urban areas spent 3.5 billion hours stuck in traffic in 2001, up from 0.72 billion in 1982.
A new report, Traffic Congestion and Reliability: Linking Solutions to Problems, is now available. This report provides a snapshot of traffic congestion in the United States by summarizing recent trends in congestion. The report also provides an understanding of the various sources of congestion, highlights the growing importance of system reliability and recommends ways to address congestion by targeting the sources of congestion and unreliability.
The report can be found at http://www.ops.fhwa.dot.gov/congestion_report/index.htm