Report: The Cost of Urban Traffic Doubled in Past 30 Years


Image credit: Texas A&M Transportation Institute

In the past decade or so, the price tag on urban traffic congestion in the U.S. has risen a whopping $27 billion, or so says the Texas A&M Transportation Institute’s 2012 Annual Urban Mobility Report. Back in 2000, the total cost in 500 major metropolitan areas came in around $94 billion. Flash forward to 2011 and the number topped out at $121 billion. Those sums factor in both fuel consumption and time spent — an estimated 5.5 billion hours collectively — and they averaged out to $795 in 2000 and $818 in 2011 (plus 38 hours) per commuter.

Adjusted for inflation, the1982 totals would be $342 and 15.5 hours spent by the average commuter, meaning that the cost of car commuting more than doubled in 30 years. The findings suggest that the uphill climb is showing no signs slowing anytime soon.


The sadly familiar brown haze of smog hangs over Los Angeles all too often. Photo credit: Steven Buss. Used under Creative Commons license.

As for the emissions involved, the report found that an extra 56 billion pounds of carbon dioxide were hurled into the atmosphere. 

Conversely, the 30-year span seems to have also allowed for more than doubled savings by those who opted for public transit with combined cash and time savings nationwide going from $8 billion in 1982 to $20.8 billion in 2011. As NextCity noted, "Productivity-wise, that’s more than 450 million collective hours put toward something other than sitting behind the wheel of a car."

Unfortunately, research on people who bike or walk to work -- the greenest and cheapest options of all -- was not included in the study.  

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