New reports shows that economic recovery brings renewed congestion growth
The 2010 Urban Mobility Report, published by the Texas Transportation Institute at Texas A&M University, is based on speed data provided by INRIX, and provides a detailed picture of congestion on a city-by-city basis.
After two years of slight declines in overall traffic congestion – attributable to the economic downturn and high fuel prices – leading indicators suggest that the problem again began to grow in 2009.
Headline figures include:
• Congestion costs continue to rise: measured in constant 2009 dollars, the cost of congestion has risen from $24 billion in 1982 to $115 billion in 2009.
• The total amount of wasted fuel in 2009 topped 3.9 billion gallons.
• Cost to the average commuter: $808 in 2009, compared to an inflation-adjusted $351 in 1982.
• Yearly peak delay for the average commuter was 34 hours in 2009, up from 14 hours in 1982.
Solutions recommended by researchers include:
• Get as much use as possible out of the transportation system.
• Add roadway and public transportation capacity in the places where it is needed most.
• Change driver patterns, employing ideas like ridesharing and flexible work times to avoid traditional "rush hours".
• Provide more choices, such as alternate routes, telecommuting and toll lanes for faster and more reliable trips.
• Diversify land development patterns, to make walking, biking and mass transit more practical.
• Adopt realistic expectations, recognising for instance that large urban areas are going to be congested, but they don't have to stay that way all day long.
'There is no rigid prescription – no 'best way' – to address congestion problems,' researcher Tim Lomax noted. 'The most effective strategy is one where agency actions are complemented by efforts of businesses, manufacturers, commuters and travellers. Each region must identify the projects, programs and policies that achieve goals, solve problems and capitalise on opportunities.'