NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Traffic Congestion Wastes Fuel and Time

February 14, 2013

The 2012 Urban Mobility Report (UMR) from the Texas A&M Transportation Institute builds on previous Urban Mobility Reports with an improved methodology and expanded coverage of the nation's urban congestion problem and solutions.

  • The report creates the Planning Time Index (PTI), which measures reliability and illustrates the amount of extra time needed to arrive on time for urgent trips like airline departure, surgery or a job interview.
  • For example, for a trip with a PTI of 5.00, a traveler would allow 60 minutes for a trip that typically takes 12 minutes and would arrive on time 19 out of 20 times.
  • PTI for freeway travel varies greatly across the nation -- from 1.31 in Pensacola, Florida, to 5.72 in Washington, D.C.

Traffic congestion is linked to the economy and to pollution. The UMR estimates that traffic congestion emits an additional 56 billion pounds of carbon dioxide into the ozone. This highlights the importance of implementing transportation improvements that reduce the urban congestion problem.

Many of this year's results do not vary much from previous years. Some of this year's most congested cities, like Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York and Boston, are repeat top offenders among the 498 urban areas the report examines.

  • Fuel wasted in congested traffic totals an estimated 2.9 billion gallons, which is the same as 2010 but short of the 3.2 billion gallons wasted in 2005.
  • The difference in time required for a rush hour commute compared to the same trip in non-congested conditions, referred to as the Travel Time Index, remained steady at 1.18.
  • The total financial cost of congestion is $121 billion, of which $27 billion is wasted time and diesel fuel from trucks moving goods.

A multifaceted approach to addressing traffic congestion that includes relying on more efficient traffic management, public transportation, flexible work hours and telecommuting would provide the highest investment return for the public.

Source: "2012 Annual Urban Mobility Report," Texas A&M Transportation Institute, February 5, 2013.


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