Cities Losing The Race Against Traffic Gridlock Growth
In the effort to catch up with the effects of traffic congestion, American cities are falling farther behind with each passing year, according to 20-year trends study.
The 2004 Urban Mobility Report, published by the Texas Transportation Institute, shows traffic congestion growing across the nation in cities of all sizes, consuming more hours of the day, and affecting more travelers and shipments of goods than ever before. We can only expect more of the same, say the study’s authors.
“We can see pretty clearly what 20 years of almost continuous economic growth can do to us,” says Tim Lomax, one of the study’s authors. “If we’re lucky enough to sustain this growth and the funding levels and options do not increase from current trends, we shouldn’t be surprised if we see even more congestion.”
The TTI study ranks areas according to several measurements, including:
— Annual delay per peak period (rush hour) traveler, which has grown from 16 hours to 46 hours since 1982;
— Annual financial cost of traffic congestion, which has ballooned from $14 billion to more than $63 billion since 1982 (as expressed in 2002 dollars);
— Wasted fuel, totaling 5.6 billion gallons lost to engines idling in traffic jams.
This year’s installment increases the number of urban areas studied from 75 to 85, and includes all urban areas exceeding a population of 500,000.
The report also measures the mobility improving contributions of public transportation service and techniques to improve roadway operating efficiency. These and other techniques can be used — nationally and locally — to more successfully reverse a national trend of ever-worsening traffic problems.
Researchers say that the problem has grown too rapidly and is too complex to be addressed by a single solution. In addition to new road and public transportation projects, they say we need more efficient use of current roadways, better demand management, and a diverse set of land use options.
“We’re facing an increasingly urgent situation,” Lomax says. “To make real progress, it’s critical that we pursue all transportation solutions — short range, small scale projects and policies, mid range efficiency programs, and longer term, more significant projects and programs that require more planning and design time.”