High gas prices reduce traffic
In 2007, when gas prices surged, travelers spent one hour less stuck in traffic than they did the year before and wasted one gallon less gasoline than the year before, according to the “2009 Urban Mobility Report,” released Wednesday by the Texas Transportation Institute at Texas A&M University in College Station, Texas. “This is a very small change,” says David Schrank, one of the researchers who compiled the report along with Tim Lomax. “No one should expect to be driving the speed limit on their way to work because of this [because the average traveler still needs 25 percent more time for those trips.]”
While small, the differences represent a rare break in near-constant growth in traffic over the last 25 years. While the recession could prolong the decline in traffic, Schrank and Lomax predict that traffic problems will rebound when the economy does the same.
Other highlights from the research include:
- The overall cost of traffic (based on wasted fuel and lost productivity) reached $87.2 billion in 2007 — more than $750 for every U.S. traveler.
- The total amount of wasted fuel topped 2.8 billion gallons — three weeks’ worth of gas for every traveler.
- The amount of wasted time totaled 4.2 billion hours — nearly one full work week (or vacation week) for every traveler.
View the “2009 Urban Mobility Report,” which tracks a quarter-century of traffic patterns in 439 U.S. urban areas from 1982 through 2007.