WASHINGTON, Aug. 26 (UPI) — An uptick in the U.S. economy has an unpleasant side effect: more people on the road.
American drivers spent 6.9 billion hours stuck in traffic in 2014, or about 42 hours a year per commuter, compared the 6.3 billion hours on the road during the height of the recession in 2009, showed a study by the Texas A&M Transportation Institute and Inrix, a Washington-based company that analyzes traffic data.
“It appears that the economy-congestion linkage is as dependable as gravity,” the study said.
Leading the pack in gridlock misery was Washington, D.C., beating out stalwarts that include New York and Los Angeles. Drivers overall waste nearly 3 billion gallons of fuel in congestion.
“The problem has become so bad in major urban areas that drivers have to plan more than twice as much travel time as they would need to arrive on time in light traffic just to account for the effects of irregular delays such as bad weather, collisions and construction zones,” the authors said.
On average, delays have doubled since 1985. For smaller cities of less than 500,000, delays have quadrupled. By 2020, the average delays are expected to grow to 47 hours a year with a total of 8.3 billion hours.
The study comes as Congress debates the highway funding bill, set to expire on Oct. 29. The study suggests options to reduce traffic, including investing more money into roads and transit to meet the population growth but notes that is not a reality in some cities where space is maxed out.
“Businesses can give their employees more flexibility in where, when and how they work, individual workers can adjust their commuting patterns, and we can have better thinking when it comes to long-term land use planning,” said Tim Lomax, a co-author of the report at the institute. “This problem calls for a classic all-hands-on-deck approach.”