NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


May 13, 2005

Traffic congestion has increased significantly over the past 20 years, costing travelers time and wasted gas, according to a recent report by the Texas Transportation Institute at Texas A&M University. Furthermore, cities are not doing enough to manage and prevent congestion.

According to coauthors Tim Loma and David Schrank:

  • The number of cities where commuters were stuck in traffic jams for more than 20 hours a year increased from five in 1983 to 51 in 2003.
  • The average annual number of hours spent in traffic delays by commuters increased from 16 in 1982 to 47 in 2003.
  • In 2003, congestion accounted for 3.7 billion hours in traffic delay and consumed 2.3 billion gallons of gas.
  • In 85 urban areas, congestion cost a total of $63 billion.

Los Angeles tops the list of metro areas with the worst traffic congestion, where commuters experienced an average of 93 hours per year in delays during peak travel times (6:00 a.m. to 9:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.).

Even more surprising is that the 2003 data reflects a period of relatively slow economic growth and more unemployment, which would normally be associated with less traffic congestion. But observers say that cities are simply not doing enough to keep up with traffic congestion. The authors note that major transportation projects can take 10 to 15 years to complete, and some agencies are reluctant to begin any projects without assurances of federal funding.

However, ramp metering, coordinating traffic signals and other measures designed to reduce congestion saved 336 million hours and $5.6 billion in 2003.

Source: Larry Copeland, "Traffic James Delay Drivers Millions of Hours," USA Today, May 10, 2005; and David Schrank and Tim Lomax, "The 2005 Urban Mobility Report," Texas Transportation Institute, Texas A&M University, May 2005.

For USA Today text:


Browse more articles on Environment Issues