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TTI/INRIX study shows US traffic congestion back at pre-recession levels; average travel delay/commuter 2x that in 1982

A new report produced by INRIX and the Texas A&M Transportation Institute (TTI) shows that traffic congestion in the US has returned to pre-recession levels. Washington, D.C. tops the list of gridlock-plagued cities, with 82 hours of delay per commuter, followed by Los Angeles (80 hours), San Francisco (78 hours), New York (74 hours), and San Jose (67 hours).

According to the 2015 Urban Mobility Scorecard, travel delays due to traffic congestion caused drivers to waste more than 3 billion gallons of fuel and kept travelers stuck in their cars for nearly 7 billion extra hours—42 hours per rush-hour commuter. The total nationwide price tag: $160 billion, or $960 per commuter. Other top-level findings include:

  • Trucks account for $28 billion (17%) of that total cost, much more than their 7% of traffic.

  • From 2013 to 2014, 95 of America’s 100 largest metro areas saw increased traffic congestion, from 2012 to 2013 only 61 cities experienced increases.

  • In order to reliably arrive on time for important freeway trips, travelers had to allow 48 minutes to make a trip that takes 20 minutes in light traffic.

Source: TTI, INRIX. Click to enlarge.

Drivers on America’s Top 10 worst roads waste on average 84 hours or 3.5 days a year on average in gridlock—twice the national average. Of these roads, six are in Los Angeles, two are in New York and the remaining two are in Chicago. Nine other cities have roads ranked among the 50 worst.

Scorecard findings also illustrate how traffic congestion isn’t just a big-city issue. Cities of all sizes are experiencing the challenges seen before the start of the recession—increased traffic congestion resulting from growing urban populations and lower fuel prices are outpacing the nation’s ability to build infrastructure.

Of America’s Top 10 Worst Traffic cities, 7 of them experienced population growth outpacing the national average of 0.7% last year, including Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Jose, Seattle, Houston and Riverside, CA.

Additionally, some of the worst traffic cities also experienced some of the largest decreases in fuel prices (-4.1% nationally) including Riverside, Houston, Los Angeles, San Jose, Boston and Chicago. The result, the average travel delay per commuter nationwide is more than twice what it was in 1982. For cities of less than 500,000 people, the problem is four times worse than in 1982.

Our growing traffic problem is too massive for any one entity to handle—state and local agencies can’t do it alone. Businesses can give their employees more flexibility in where, when and how they work, individual workers can adjust their commuting patterns, and we can have better thinking when it comes to long-term land use planning. This problem calls for a classic ‘all-hands-on-deck’ approach.

—Tim Lomax, a report co-author and Regents Fellow at TTI

Recent data from the US Department of Transportation shows that Americans have driven more than 3 trillion miles in the last 12 months. That’s a new record, surpassing the 2007 peak just before the global financial crisis. Report authors say the US needs more roadway and transit investment to meet the demands of population growth and economic expansion, but added capacity alone can’t solve congestion problems. Solutions must involve a mix of strategies, combining new construction, better operations, and more transportation options as well as flexible work schedules.

Connectedness, big data and automation will have an immense impact over the next decade on how we travel and how governments efficiently manage the flow of people and commerce across our transportation networks. This report is a great example of how data and analytics are evolving to provide transportation agencies with the insight needed to not only make our existing transportation systems work smarter but more quickly pinpoint where investment can have a lasting impact.

—Jim Bak, co-author and a director at INRIX

The report predicts urban roadway congestion will continue to get worse without more assertive approaches on the project, program, and policy fronts. By 2020, with a continued good economy:

  • Annual delay per commuter will grow from 42 hours to 47 hours.
  • Total delay nationwide will grow from 6.9 billion hours to 8.3 billion hours.
  • The total cost of congestion will jump from $160 billion to $192 billion.

Findings in the Urban Mobility Scorecard are drawn from traffic speed data collected by INRIX on 1.3 million miles of urban streets and highways, along with highway performance data from the Federal Highway Administration. The vast amount of information, INRIX and TTI say, makes it possible to examine problems in greater detail than before, and to identify the effect of solutions at specific locations.



Get a bike or use public transport and let someone else drive.
(Bike can be pedal, electric or motorbike).

You can make cars electric and charge them on hydro or solar electricity so there is no CO2 and no pollution, but you still cannot go through the car in front.
(With a bike, you can go around it!)


Car pooling does not seem popular in the U.S.


Driverless electrified UBER type mini-buses (of various sizes... 4 to 10 passengers) may be one effective way to reduce the total number of vehicles on the roads and streets, specially during rush hours, to reduce costly traffic jams, travel time and pollution.

School buses do it fairly well with old fashion gas guzzlers to reduce the number of (taxi-mums) on the roads. Automated e-units could do it much better.

Our first 10 e-school buses will be in operation next week (with old fashion drivers) as a first step.


Driverless Uber type cars, whether electrified or not, could solve the last mile problem for many drivers and encourage the use of mass transit for most trips. I suspect most drivers like me would take a bus, but I need a car on either end of the line to get where I am going in a reasonable amount of time (less than three times that of driving). Such solutions could easily be piloted in limited geographic areas prior to full rollout. We just need the driverless cars. However, even a frequent, short route bus during rush hours to and from mass transit terminals might do the trick.



I'd look up emissions from a motorbike as compared to a car. Then I'd look up the MPG between the two. Then I'd look up the stats about fatalities. Then finally look up how much it costs to own a bike, especially if you do 15K a year. You might have to get a motor every 2 years or so... 30k miles is a bit much for a bike.

I don't know many people that would be okay to riding in the rain, or snow or just inclement weather in general.

You can get a car that is safe at highway speeds that gets ~45-52MPG has 4 doors, seats four or five, will be safe in most wrecks, has HVAC.

Or you can get a bike, for about a third of the price of the car(5,200 vs ~17,000), seats one(maybe two...but you wouldn't want a 296cc on the highway with a passenger going up hills or dodging traffic), gets 66 mpg, offers little protection in the way of wrecks, wind, snow, rain;

People have a hard enough time with 4 wheels, why take 2 away from them?

I biked(pedaled) to work once, just to see if I could do it. I got there 2 hours later and figured I only almost got killed 5 times in that one outing... then I figured it wasn't meant to be as it would be dark when I'd leave home at 4 am, and dark when I got home at 10pm, later if I got stuck working late). If I biked to my current job, I wouldn't have time to sleep.

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