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Mobility Project - State-by-State Analysis of Future Congestion and Capacity Needs - California

August 1, 2006

 
     
       
 


How bad will traffic congestion be in 2030? How much construction and how many new lane miles will each state and major city need to add over the next 25 years to prevent severe congestion? And how much will it all cost? The Reason Foundation study Building Roads to Reduce Traffic Congestion in America's Cities: How Much and at What Cost? and its addendum, A Detailed State-by-State Analysis of Future Congestion and Capacity Needs, provide in-depth answers to these questions. An interactive map ranking the states by congestion and costs to reduce traffic is here and a map of the most congested cities is here.


 
 

California

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Six of the 18 most congested cities in America are in California, with Los Angeles leading the way as the most congested place in the country and the Bay Area ranking third.

California is expected to add another 10 million people by 2030 and traffic congestion is a serious threat to the state's economic health. To significantly reduce today's severe congestion and cope with the traffic that will accompany the state's growth by 2030 California needs to add over 13,100 lane-miles at a cost of nearly $122 billion�both figures are the highest in the nation. That's a cost of approximately $139 per resident each year. By comparison, Texas needs nearly the same number of new lane-miles�12,930�but because of the lower cost of land and construction, those lanes will cost Texas approximately $49 billion, just 40 percent of California's $122 billion price tag.

If the state made these improvements, it would save over 1,843 million hours per year that are now wasted in traffic jams. In addition to these time savings, there would be additional benefits that are not quantified in this study, including: lower fuel use, reduced accident rates and vehicle operating costs, lower shipping costs and truck travel time reductions, greater freight reliability, and a number of benefits associated with greater community accessibility, including an expanded labor pool for employers and new job choices for workers.

California has seven cities that currently suffer from severe congestion, which this study identifies as areas with Travel Time Indices (TTIs) of 1.18 or higher. (This means that driving times during peak traffic hours are 18 percent longer than during off-peak times.) These cities (Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego, Riverside-San Bernardino, San Jose, Sacramento, and Oxford-Ventura) are addressed separately below. Also addressed separately are Fresno and Bakersfield, two large cities that are not yet severely congested.

Los Angeles

Los Angeles has the nation's worst Travel Time Index (TTI), 1.75. This means that driving times during LA's peak traffic are 75 percent longer than during off-peak times. In 2030, LA is still expected to have the nation's worst traffic, with the TTI increasing to 1.94 and travel times during peak hours increasing to 94 percent longer than during off-peak hours.

Los Angeles could significantly reduce congestion and have room for the expected growth by adding nearly 3,700 new lane-miles by 2030 at an estimated cost of $67.7 billion, in today's dollars. That's a cost of $192.22 per resident each year. This investment would save a whopping one billion hours each year that Angelenos now lose sitting in traffic, at a cost of $2.62 per delay-hour saved.

While $67.7 billion may sound like an unattainably large investment, it is actually just 58.7 percent of the planned transportation spending under the long-range plans of the Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG), which is the Los Angeles area's Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO). Those plans call for $115.4 billion over the next 25 years�$48.5 billion on highway improvements and $66.9 billion on mass transit. While some of the planned highway improvement funding may be used for capacity expansion, the majority is often allocated to preserving, maintaining, and operating the highway system. About 4.7 percent of the LA labor force now uses mass transit to commute. And yet, transit accounts for 58 percent of the area's planned spending over the next 25 years.

San Francisco-Oakland

With the nation's third worst traffic congestion today, the Bay Area is facing even more severe congestion in the future. San Francisco-Oakland currently has a Travel Time Index (TTI) of 1.54. This means that driving times during peak traffic hours are 54 percent longer than during off-peak times. In 2030, the travel time index is expected to be 1.86�meaning drivers will experience travel delays far worse than even present-day Los Angeles (1.75).

San Francisco-Oakland could significantly reduce congestion and prepare for growth expected by 2030 by adding nearly 2,300 new lane-miles at an estimated cost of $29.2 billion, in today's dollars. That's a cost of $257.17 per resident each year. This investment would save a nearly 314 million hours each year that residents now lose sitting in traffic, at a cost of $3.72 per delay-hour saved.

While $29.2 billion may sound like an exceedingly large investment, it is actually just 24.8 percent of the planned transportation spending under the long-range plans of the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC), which is the San-Francisco-Oakland area's Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO). Those plans call for $118 billion over the next 25 years�$42 billion on highway improvements and $76 billion on mass transit. Around 80 percent of Bay Area workers commute in their cars, either alone or in a carpool. In contrast, 9.5 percent now use mass transit to commute. And yet, transit accounts for well over half, 64 percent, of the area's planned transportation spending over the next 25 years. While some of the planned highway improvement funding may be used for capacity expansion, the majority is often allocated to preserving, maintaining, and operating the highway system.

San Diego

San Diego is home to the nation's eighth worst Travel Time Index (TTI), 1.41. This means that driving times during peak traffic are 41 percent longer than during off-peak times. In 2030, San Diego's congestion is expected to worsen, with driving times during peak hours increasing to 70 percent longer than off-peak hours. San Diego's 2030 Travel Time Index of 1.70 is slightly lower than the delays experienced in present-day Los Angeles (1.75) and higher than that of today's Chicago (1.57).

San Diego could significantly reduce severe congestion by adding 1,400 new lane-miles by 2030 at an estimated cost of $7.5 billion, in today's dollars. That's a cost of $91.04 per resident each year. This investment would save 147 million hours each year that residents lose sitting in traffic, at a cost of just $2.02 for each hour saved.

While $7.5 billion may sound like an exceedingly large investment, it is actually just 23.3 percent of the planned transportation spending under the long-range plans of the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG), which is the San Diego area's Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO). Those plans call for $32.2 billion over the next 25 years�$8.1 billion on highway improvements, $15.9 billion on mass transit, and $8.3 billion on other projects. Well over 80 percent of San Diego workers commute in their cars, either alone or in a carpool. In contrast, 3.4 percent now use mass transit to commute. And yet, transit accounts for almost half, 49.4 percent, of the area's planned transportation spending over the next 25 years.

Bakersfield

Bakersfield's Travel Time Index (TTI) is expected to rise from 1.07 to 1.17 by 2030. This means that in 2030, travel times during peak traffic will be 17 percent longer than during off-peak times.

Bakersfield could significantly reduce congestion and have room for the incoming population growth by adding 210 new lane-miles by 2030 at an estimated cost of $421 million, in today's dollars. That's a cost of $31.26 per resident each year. This investment would save 3.7 million hours each year residents currently lose sitting in traffic.

The $421 million needed to reduce congestion is just 7.4 percent of the planned transportation spending under the long-range plans of the Kern Council of Governments, which is the Bakersfield area's Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO). Those plans call for $5.7 billion over the next 25 years�$4.2 billion on highway improvements, $1.4 billion on mass transit, and $15 million on other projects. Over 90 percent of Bakersfield area workers commute by car, either alone or in a carpool. In contrast, just 1.4 percent now use mass transit to commute. And yet, transit accounts for 25 percent of the area's planned transportation spending over the next 25 years.

San Jose

San Jose's population is expected to exceed two million by 2030, and while the city has not yet experienced the severe traffic pains that San Francisco or Los Angeles have, that could soon change.

San Jose currently has a Travel Time Index (TTI) of 1.37. This means that driving times during peak traffic hours are 37 percent longer than during off-peak times. In 2030, the travel time index is expected to be 1.65�meaning the city will experience travel delays significantly worse than even present-day San Francisco (1.54) and Chicago (1.57).

San Jose could significantly reduce congestion and account for impending growth expected by 2030 by adding 286 new lane-miles at an estimated cost of $1.3 billion, in today's dollars. That's a cost of just $27.63 per resident each year. This investment would save nearly 87 million hours each year that residents now lose sitting in traffic, at a cost of just 59 cents for each hour saved.

Riverside-San Bernardino

The Riverside-San Bernardino area has one of the nation's highest Travel Time Indices (TTIs), 1.37. This means that driving times during peak traffic are 37 percent longer than during off-peak times. In 2030, that number is expected to rise to 1.64�travel times would be 64 percent longer during peak times than off-peak hours. That would leave Riverside slightly better off than other cities like San Jose (1.65) and Sacramento (1.73).

Riverside-San Bernardino could significantly reduce severe congestion by adding 906 new lane-miles by 2030 at an estimated cost of $4.3 billion, in today's dollars. That's a cost of $80.24 per resident each year. This investment would save 97 million hours each year that residents now lose sitting in traffic, at a cost of just $1.78 per delay-hour saved.

Sacramento

With housing prices significantly lower in Sacramento than in many of the state's other metro areas, the city is expected to see significant growth over the next 25 years. As a result, Sacramento's Travel Time Index (TTI) is expected to increase from 1.37 today to 1.73 by 2030. This means that, in 2030, driving times during Sacramento's peak traffic would be 73 percent longer than travel times during off-peak hours and Sacramento would be experiencing travel time delays nearly identical to the delays in present-day Los Angeles (1.75) and delays much longer than those in today's Chicago (1.57) and San Francisco (1.54).

Sacramento could significantly reduce severe congestion by adding 833 new lane-miles by 2030 at an estimated cost of $3.1 billion, in today's dollars. That's a cost of $60.60 per resident each year. This investment would save 94 million hours each year that residents lose sitting in traffic, at a cost of just $1.33 for each hour saved.

Fresno

Fresno's Travel Time Index (TTI) is expected to rise from 1.14 to 1.30 by 2030. This means that in 2030, travel times during peak traffic will be 30 percent longer than during off-peak times.

Fresno could significantly reduce congestion and have room for the incoming population growth by adding 534 new lane-miles by 2030 at an estimated cost of $941 million, in today's dollars. That's a cost of $52.44 per resident each year, about $5.09 per delay hour saved. This investment would save 7.4 million hours each year residents currently lose sitting in traffic.

Fairfield, Simi Valley, Oxnard-Ventura

Fairfield, Simi Valley and the Oxnard-Ventura area are expected to see three of the largest increases in Travel Time Indices (TTIs) in the state. Fairfield will see its TTI jump from 1.04 to 1.25 by 2030 and Simi Valley's will increase from 1.04 to 1.24. Oxnard and Ventura will see delays grow from 1.23 to 1.46 by 2030. Together, these areas need to add 522.9 lane-miles to significantly reduce severe congestion by 2030, at a total cost of $1.6 billion.


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» Return to Index Page: Study, State-By-State Data, Maps
» Return to Interactive Map of Traffic U.S. Congestion Statistics and Construction Needs


This information is excerpted from A Detailed State-by-State Analysis of Future Congestion and Capacity Needs and Building Roads to Reduce Traffic Congestion in America's Cities: How Much and at What Cost?

Additional Resources:
» Reason Foundation's Mobility Project Main Page
» Reason Foundation's Transportation Research and Commentary
» Reason Foundation's Press Room

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