NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Traffic Gridlock Sets New Records for Traveler Misery

September 9, 2015

Growing urban populations and decreasing gas prices contributed to the 2015 traffic congestion increase resulting in U.S. travelers wasting 3 billion gallons of fuel and nearly 42 hours per rush-hour commuter. The 2015 Urban Mobility Scorecard, published by INRIX and Texas A&M Transportation Institute (TII) determined the cost per commuter for congestion was $960 or $160 billion nationwide. The study combined data from the Federal Highway Administration and traffic speed data collected on 1.3 million miles of streets and highways.

  • The top five gridlock cities reported 381 hours of delay: Washington, D.C. (82 hours), Los Angeles (80 hours), San Francisco (78 hours), New York City (74 hours) and San Jose (67 hours).
  • Travel delays per commuter on average nationwide are twice as long as reported average delays in 1982.
  • Seven of the worst traffic cities, Riverside, Ca., Houston, Los Angeles, San Jose, Boston and Chicago, also reported dramatic decreases in fuel prices.
  • Projections for 2020 suggest that the annual delay per commuter will continue to grow, increasing from 42 hours to 47 hours and cost $192 billion nationwide.

Solutions for traffic congestion require an "all-hands-on-deck" approach according to Tim Lomax, a report co-author and Regents Fellow at TII.  With continuing population growth and urban expansion, building more highways cannot be the only solution.  Flexible work schedules, varied transportation options and innovative traffic flow designs are all necessary to combat roadway congestion.

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