NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Texas Transport Institute's 2011 Urban Mobility Report

October 4, 2011

In many regions, traffic jams can occur at any daylight hour, many nighttime hours and on weekends.  The problems that travelers and shippers face include extra travel time, unreliable travel time and a system that is vulnerable to a variety of irregular congestion-producing occurrences.  All of these problems have grown worse with time, and the costs to society of traffic congestion continued to rise for the last year, says the Texas Transportation Institute.

Consider, in 2010:

  • 1.9 billion gallons of fuel were wasted because of traffic congestion.
  • Traffic congestion caused aggregate delays of 4.8 billion hours.
  • Using standard measures, waste associated with traffic congestion summed to $101 billion of delay and fuel cost.
  • The cost to the average commuter was $713 in 2010 compared to an inflation-adjusted $301 in 1982.
  • Sixty million Americans suffered more than 30 hours of delay in 2010.

Furthermore, in addition to the fact that these trends have grown worse with time, studies show that congestion-related waste and losses will worsen in the near future.  This is a causal result of a rebounding economy and a growing population.  As the unemployment rate begins to drop and more Americans get back to work, the number of commuters will increase, further exacerbating these already frustrating problems.

Researchers and analysts, after pouring over data regarding traffic flows and volume, have proposed numerous potential solutions to America's growing congestion problem -- each with its own price tag and likelihood of success.  Some solutions focus on maximizing the effectiveness of resources that are already in place by implementing new policies, such as rapidly removing crashed vehicles from roadways and timing traffic signals to maximize volume flow.  Still others advocate targeted improvements in infrastructure for critical routes.  Newer, less traditional policies have also been proposed, such as encouraging businesses to shift office hours so that commuters can avoid peak congestion periods.

Regardless of what is done, researchers are keen to emphasize that no solution will be a silver bullet for traffic, and that a crucial aspect to addressing congestion concerns is to have realistic expectations.

Source: David Schrank, Tim Lomax and Bill Eisele, "TTI's 2011 Urban Mobility Report," Texas Transportation Institute, September 2011.


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