Gridlock in U.S. Cities Costs Over $100 Billion

The Beltway, Washington, DC

The city with the most gridlock in the U.S. today is Washington, DC, which is no surprise to me, having lived there for eight years in the ‘90s. The metro area has been growing apace for twenty years and, of course, the roads haven’t kept up.

Commuting from any point within 25 miles to the Capitol, say, will be an exercise in frustration, rage suppression and bladder control.

As many travelers will tell you, I-95 is frequently a creeping disaster from Baltimore to Richmond. The yearly Texas Transportation Institute’s study of gridlock put DC in the top spot, followed by Chicago, greater Los Angeles, Houston and New York.

Cities were ranked in terms of delay time, excess fuel used and congestion cost per commuter. See table after the break.

national congestion table

If your city isn’t listed above, you can find its data here. The study’s highlights show that the weak economy has played a role in the slowdown. When economic health returns, congestion will increase and so will the costs of transportation for goods.

We have been getting by on roads built more than 50 years ago, and the free ride won’t last much longer.

The study summarizes some major effects of congestion:

  • The amount of delay endured by the average commuter was 34 hours, up from 14 hours in 1982.
  • The cost of congestion is more than $100 billion, nearly $750 for every commuter in the U.S.
  • “Rush hour” is six hours of not rushing anywhere.
  • Congestion is becoming a bigger problem outside of “rush hour,” with about 40 percent of the delay occurring in the mid-day and overnight hours, creating an increasingly serious problem for businesses that rely on efficient production and deliveries.

Looking ahead to 2015, the study finds that average commuter delay will increase by three hours, costing over $900 per commuter and wasting 2.5 billion gallons of gasoline.

The cost per wasted hour for truckers is $106; for car-drivers, it’s $16. Which explains why last January TTI pegged the per-commuter cost in Chicago, where there is a lot of truck traffic, at $1,738.

Since Congress is even more gridlocked and congested than the road system, don’t expect relief from it anytime soon. We still need a massive, jobs-creating, traffic-relieving infrastructure program to redesign and rebuild our road and traffic systems. Everyone who drives has a vested interest in that and should push for it.

How bad will your city have to get before you start beating on your representative in Congress for some action?

—jgoods

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1 Comment

  1. I can’t hide my great satisfaction that the very people who create the policies that result in gridlock and clouds of air pollution are the number one victims. There’s a subway, of cours, but that’s for the po’ fouks like us. I guess the fat cats like the Obamas just fly over it all.

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