Policy Brief

Employer Views on Traffic Congestion

Businesses are concerned about both rush hour and off-peak congestion

Traffic congestion is a problem not just for individual commuters but for businesses as well. But while commuters’ top concern is rush hour traffic, businesses are also concerned with the off-peak hour (non-rush hour) delivery of goods. Since businesses are concerned with congestion during both time periods, their views on traffic congestion differ from those of commuters. Solving rush hour and off-peak congestion is also more challenging than merely solving rush hour congestion.

This brief summarizes a national survey of employers’ views of traffic congestion. One thousand representative employers answered a telephone survey regarding effects of traffic congestion on business practices, employee commutes, customer satisfaction and relocation prospects. These businesses represent 12.3 million U.S. employers with a total of 157 million workers. Geographic location plays a major role in how employers view congestion. While 33% of employers view traffic congestion as a moderate or major problem, nearly half of southern employers, 53% of large employers, 52% of downtown employers near freeway exits and 71% of downtown employers on four-lane roads hold this view.

Employers encounter congestion during normal business activities. About 65% receive or ship materials, 53% require workers to drive while on the job and 51% receive customers or clients at their sites. Congestion affects employers through employee daytime business travel, shipping and receiving, worker commuting and customer contact.

Congestion also significantly affects employees. About 25% of employers and 38% of large employers note that managers regularly complain about traffic, particularly as it relates to employees’ late arrival to work. Employers increasingly provide opportunities for flexible work hours, try to schedule meetings at less congested times and allow employees to work from home. Passes or subsidies for transit use are less common. Although customers also complain about traffic, employers appear to have taken few actions to address their complaints.

In order to mitigate congestion, employers suggest demand shifts, capacity improvements, the addition of signs and signals and transit improvements. In short, local traffic congestion is an increasingly important issue for employers, whose views should be considered in developing appropriate solutions.


David T. Hartgen

David T. Hartgen is Emeritus Professor of Transportation Studies at UNC Charlotte. Professor Hartgen is widely known in transportation circles. He established UNC Charlotte's Center for Interdisciplinary Transportation Studies in 1989 and now teaches and conducts research in transportation policy and planning. He is the author of about 330 studies on a wide variety of topics in transportation policy and planning, is the U.S. editor of the international academic journal Transportation, and is active in professional organizations. He is a frequent media interviewee in local and national outlets. Before coming to Charlotte he directed the statistics, traffic forecasting and analysis functions of the New York State Department of Transportation and served as a Policy Analyst at the Federal Highway Administration. He holds engineering degrees from Duke University and Northwestern University. He has taught at SUNY Albany, Union College and Syracuse University and lectures widely. His studies of the comparative performance of transportation systems have received nation-wide attention. He has also recently completed a major component of Reason's Mobility Study that estimates the cost of significantly reducing road congestion nation-wide, a comprehensive study of congestion in North Carolina, and a comparative study of the 50 state highway systems . His current research includes an assessment of the economic impact of highways in South Carolina, a review of transportation performance for the provinces of Canada, a national study of business impacts of congestion, and an assessment of congestion in mid-sized cities.

M. Gregory Fields is a retired military officer with degrees from West Point, Webster University in St. Louis, and UNC Charlotte. He is enrolled in the PhD program in Urban Regional Analysis at UNC Charlotte and has participated in a number of comparative transportation studies.