In 2014, an Improving Economy—and the Worst Traffic in Three Decades – Real Time Economics

Traffic jams up on the Kennedy Expressway leaving Chicago for Memorial Day weekend last year.

Traffic congestion has staged a comeback as the economy recovers from the 2007-09 recession, researchers at Texas A&M have found, a conclusion that will probably come as no surprise to harried urban commuters.

In a study set for release Wednesday, the university’s Texas Transportation Institute and Inrix, a data analysis firm, found traffic congestion was worse in 2014 than in any year since at least 1982. American commuters spent 42 hours each on average in traffic last year and wasted a total of 3.1 billion gallons of fuel, costing the economy $160 billion.

That’s a sharp increase from 2008 and 2009, when lost jobs kept people from commuting and cut down the overall amount of time spent in traffic.

“It follows the economic thread,” said Bill Eisele, a senior research engineer at TTI, who worked on the study. “There’s clearly this relationship that the higher congestion levels are a downside of this increase in economic activity.”

The study’s travel time index—a ratio of travel times under peak conditions to travel times when traffic is free-flowing—also rose to a record last year. Inrix provided speed data “from a variety of sources every day of the year on almost every major road,” which the researchers combined with traffic volume statistics from the Federal Highway Administration, the report said.

The study, which the university updates every few years, has become a closely watched measure of congestion.

One variable that does not show up in the report is the recent drop in gas prices. That’s because the effect of fuel prices takes a long time to show in congestion data, said David Ellis, a research scientist at Texas A&M.

Fuel prices may make a difference to families planning their summer vacations, he said, but their impact is limited on work commutes and other necessary trips, such as ferrying children to and from school.

“When gasoline prices are down, it doesn’t necessarily mean that people say, ‘Oh, gosh, let’s get in the car and drive around.’ That’s not typically the reaction that people have,” he said.

Related reading:

Sprawling Cities Face More Car Wrecks and Higher Obesity

Vital Signs Chart: Transportation Costs Picking Up

Why It’s Good News That Americans Are Wasting More Time in Traffic



for economic news and analysis

for central banking news and analysis

Get WSJ economic analysis delivered to your inbox:

Sign up for the Real Time Economics daily summary

If the article suppose to have a video or a photo gallery and it does not appear on your screen, please Click Here

26 August 2015 | 4:01 am – Source:


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.