Congestion Kicks Back into High Gear

The Texas Transportation Institute has released its 2010 Urban Mobility Report. As expected, urban congestion is roaring back after a brief, minor respite during the recession. Notably, congestion began to moderate in 2007, before the recession took hold, and has started to pick up again even though the recovery has been sluggish at best.

The press release for the 2010 report notes:

“After two years of slight declines in overall traffic congestion — attributable to the economic downturn and high fuel prices — leading indicators suggest that as the economy rebounds, traffic problems are doing the same. While 2008 was the best year for commuters in at least a decade, the problem again began to grow in 2009.

“Highlights from the research illustrate the effects of the nation’s traffic problems:

  • Congestion costs continue to rise: measured in constant 2009 dollars, 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.

“We have a great deal more confidence in the numbers we now have for the chaotic years of 2007, 2008 & 2009,” researcher Shawn Turner said. “Thanks to technology, we are using data that simply could not have been gathered a few years ago.”

This years report includes data for 439 urbanized area and summary data for 101, including all urbanized areas over 1 million in population. A complete list of tables in the report can be found here and the summary table for 101 urbanized areas here.

The newest version of the report includes several innovations that improve TTI’s ability to accurately measure congestion, including a partnership with the real-time traffic monitoring systems of INRIX.