If road rage and lost time weren’t enough to make your daily commute miserable, traffic jams are also hitting American where it really counts: the wallet. The 2010 Urban Mobility Report released today by the Texas Transportation Institute at Texas A&M University reveals that failing U.S. infrastructure, including roads, highways and bridges, is costing Americans more than $800 every year.
While traffic jams thinned out during the recession (fewer Americans with jobs commuting to work, many people saving money on gas etc.), the report found that economic recovery has put more cars back on the roads in the 439 U.S. urban areas. In short, there is more congestion crippling American transportation infrastructure already in desperate need of repair and renewal.
Among the reports findings:
· Congestion costs continue to rise: 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 – equal to 130 days of flow in the Alaska Pipeline.
· 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.
· Without public transportation services, travelers would have suffered an additional 785 million hours of delay and consumed 640 million more gallons of fuel—a savings of $19 billion in congestion costs.
The U.S. infrastructure crisis must be addressed to protect public health, safety and welfare, warns Kathy J. Caldwell, P.E., President of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE). "For years, Americans have suffered the effects of failing transportation infrastructure, and for years, as a nation, we have ignored the increasing costs associated with that congestion. This week's report from the Texas Transportation Institute is further evidence of that fact.”
Researchers involved with the report recommend a balanced and diversified approach to reducing traffic congestion – one that focuses on more of everything. Their strategies include:
· Adding roadway and public transportation capacity in the places where it is needed most.
· Changing our 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.
"The nation's roadways are an integral part of our way of life, and are vital to our economy… Our infrastructure is in crisis, and the American public needs to tell their elected officials—local, state and federal—that they will no longer tolerate wasting time sitting in traffic instead of spending that time with their families. We have to demand decisive, innovative and meaningful action from our elected officials now, or suffer the safety and economic consequences of inaction,” concludes Caldwell.