NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


September 21, 2007

Traffic congestion continues to worsen in American cities of all sizes, creating a $78 billion annual drain on the U.S. economy in the form of 4.2 billion lost hours and 2.9 billion gallons of wasted fuel -- that's 105 million weeks of vacation and 58 fully-loaded supertankers.  These are among the key findings of the Texas Transportation Institute's 2007 Urban Mobility Report. 

The problem is growing worse in all 437 of the nation's urban areas (the current report is based on 2005 figures, the most recent year for which complete data was available):

  • The 2007 mobility report notes that congestion causes the average peak period traveler to spend an extra 38 hours of travel time and consume an additional 26 gallons of fuel, amounting to a cost of $710 per traveler.
  • Along with expanding the estimates of the effect of congestion to all 437 U.S. urban areas, the study provides detailed information for 85 specific urban areas.
  • The report also focuses on the problems presented by "irregular events" -- crashes, stalled vehicles, work zones, weather problems and special events -- that cause unreliable travel times and contribute significantly to the overall congestion problem.

Other findings:

  • Los Angeles drivers face the worst commute in the nation, with the average driver there losing about 72 hours a year to traffic. 
  • Drivers in the New York metropolitan area, with the second-worst commute in the nation, wasted 242 million gallons of fuel sitting in traffic in 2005, costing the nation $7.4 billion in lost productivity and fuel.

Source: Steve Ritea, "Costs of New York traffic second only to L.A.,", September 20, 2007; based upon: David Schrank and Tim Lomax, "The 2007 Urban Mobility Report," Texas Transportation Institute, Texas A&M University, September.


Browse more articles on Economic Issues