If you spend any time driving in urban areas, you probably already know that traffic is getting worse. According to the Urban Mobility Report, an annual look at traffic congestion compiled by the Texas Transportation Institute, the average commuter spends wastes $713 annually on gasoline while sitting in traffic. That's more than twice the cost of traffic congestion in 1982.
Nationwide, idling in traffic costs some $101 billion vs. $79 billion in 2000 and $21 billion in 1982, according to the report. Unless something is done to improve highways and rapid transit systems, the picture is likely to get far worse. The report's authors project that the cost of traffic will rise to $133 billion in 2015 and $175 billion in 2020. (That's in constant -- inflation-adjusted -- dollars.)
Rush hour -- the most misnamed term ever -- now lasts 6 hours in many urban areas, the report says. People who must drive during peak traffic periods spent 34 hours battling congestion -- almost a full work week. And, if you live in a big city, the time and cost associated with sitting in traffic is often double the national average.
Where is traffic the worst? Here's the top 15 urban areas, based on total hours wasted per commuter and the amount that costs the average driver each year.
1. Washington, D.C.; Hours wasted: 74; Cost per commuter: $1,495
2. Chicago, Ill.; Hours wasted: 71; Cost per commuter: $1,568*
3. Los Angeles/Long Beach, Calif.; Hours wasted: 64; Cost per commuter: $1,334
4. Houston, Tx.; Hours wasted: 57; Cost per commuter: $1,171
5. New York/Newark, NJ.; Hours wasted: 54; Cost per commuter: $1,126
6. Baltimore, MD; Hours wasted: 52; Cost per commuter: $1,102
7. San Francisco/Oakland, Ca.; Hours wasted: 50; Cost per commuter $1,019
8. Denver/Aurora, Co.; Hours wasted: 49; Cost per commuter: $993
9. Boston, Mass.; Hours wasted: 47; Cost per commuter: $980
10. Dallas/Ft. Worth, Tx.; Hours wasted: 45; Cost per commuter: $924
11. Minneapolis-St. Paul, Mn.; Hours wasted: 45; Cost per commuter: $916
12. Seattle, Wa.; Hours wasted: 44; Cost per commuter: $942
13. Atlanta, Ga.; Hours wasted: 43; Cost per commuter: $924
14. Philadelphia, Pa.; Hours wasted: 42; Cost per commuter: $864
15. San Diego, Ca.; Hours wasted: 38; Cost per commuter: $794**
*The cost takes into account the number of trucks delayed in traffic, which expend fuel at a higher and more costly rate.
** There are four cities that tied for 15th place based on the number of hours wasted. The other three: Austin, Tx.; Miami, Fla., and Orlando, Fla. We broke the tie by adding in the cost per commuter, which was $791 in Orlando; $785 in Miami and $743 in Austin.
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