“Including CO2 emissions into the UMR provides another dimension to the urban congestion problem,” says researcher and co-author David Schrank. “It points to the importance of implementing transportation improvements to reduce congestion.” The analysis of CO2 was made possible by funding from the National Center for Freight and Infrastructure Research and Education (CFIRE).
Traffic congestion in U.S. cities has remained relatively stable in recent years and continues to underscore the link between traffic and the economy, according to the UMR. As the nation’s job picture has slowly improved, some congestion measures in 2011 were generally comparable to the year before.
Fuel wasted in congested traffic reached a total of 2.9 billion gallons – enough to fill the New Orleans Superdome four times. That’s the same as 2010, but short of the 3.2 billion gallons wasted in 2005. The Travel Time Index (the difference in time required for a rush hour commute compared to the same trip in non-congested conditions) remained steady at 1.18, still short of the 1.23 level in 2005.
The Financial Cost
The total financial cost of congestion in 2011 was $121 billion, up one billion dollars from the year before and translating to $818 per U.S. commuter. Of that total, about $27 billion worth was wasted time and diesel fuel from trucks moving goods on the system.
The methods and measures developed by TTI and used in the Urban Mobility Report have been successfully implemented for policy making and prioritizing congestion-mitigating projects,” says report co-author and researcher Tim Lomax. “In light of the recent signing of the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century (MAP-21) Act, there is greater importance on using such measures to prioritize transportation improvement spending to get the highest investment return for the public.”
Researchers say that the most effective way to address traffic congestion varies from one urban area to another, but that in all cases, a multi-faceted approach should be used, relying on more efficient traffic management and public transportation in addition to new construction. Travel options such as flexible work hours and telecommuting should also be part of the mix.
The 2012 installment of the study includes 30 years of trend data with which TTI has measured and analyzed traffic congestion and its impact on life in urban America. The report is the third prepared in partnership with INRIX, a leading private-sector provider of travel time information for both commuters and shippers.
TTI, a member of The Texas A&M University System, seeks solutions to the problems and challenges facing all modes of transportation, as well as helping prepare students for transportation-related careers. Click here for more information.