U.S. commuters spend about 42 hours a year stuck in traffic jams

Wed Aug 26, 2015 12:10am EDT
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By Jim Forsyth

SAN ANTONIO (Reuters) - A strong economy and cheap gas have put more motorists on U.S. roads, leading to the worst-ever traffic congestion and forcing the average urban commuter to waste about 42 hours a year stuck in traffic jams, a report released on Wednesday said.

The Texas Transportation Institute report estimates U.S. highway congestion costs $160 billion a year, including from lost productivity, gas burned while idling in traffic and additional wear and tear on vehicles.

"The higher congestion levels are clearly the downside of increased economic activity," said Bill Eisele, senior researcher for the TTI, which put together the annual Urban Mobility Scorecard along with traffic tracking company INRIX. TTI is part of Texas A&M University.

Eisele said Americans drove a record number of miles in the last 12 months, surpassing the previous peak set in 2007, before the start of the massive economic downturn.

"Congestion is mirroring the national trend," he said.

In 1982, motorists spent an average of 16 hours a year sitting in traffic jams, by 2010, that time had grown to 38 hours, TTI said. 

Tim Lomax, a report co-author, said Washington, D.C., has the worst gridlock in the country, with commuters wasting 82 hours a year stuck in traffic, nearly twice the national average. 

The other most congestion-plagued cities include Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York and San Jose.    Continued...

A heavy traffic jam on New York's 2nd Avenue builds up during the United Nations General Assembly in New York on September 26, 2013. REUTERS/Zoran Milich