TTI's 2019 Urban Mobility Report illustrates the problem, tying increased gridlock to an improving economy. Researchers behind the work advocate for a "more of everything" solution, including more roads, transit, squeezing as much efficiency out of the existing system as possible, reducing transportation demand through telework, better balancing demand and roadway capacity by adjusting work hours, and smarter land use.
According to TTI, the U.S. added 1.9 million jobs from 2016 to 2017—slower growth than the 2.3 million-plus growth in four of the five previous years, but more than enough to exacerbate the nation’s traffic woes. TTI’s gridlock data extends back to 1982. Since that time, the number of jobs in the nation has grown almost nonstop by just over 50% to the current total of 153 million.
Furthermore, the study finds that the number of hours per commuter lost to traffic delay has nearly tripled, climbing to 54 hours per year; the annual cost of that delay per commuter has nearly doubled, to $1,010; the nationwide cost of gridlock has grown more than tenfold, to $166 billion per year; and the amount of fuel wasted in stalled traffic has more than tripled, to 3.3 billion gallons a year.
According to TTI, the 2008–2009 recession produced only a brief pause in traffic congestion growth, which bounced back at an even quicker pace than associated job recovery. The result is that the average freeway traveler has to allow almost twice the expected trip duration to ensure dependable arrival for time-sensitive engagements.
Simply put, travel demand is growing faster than the system’s ability to absorb that demand. Once considered a problem exclusive to big cities, roadway gridlock now afflicts urban areas of all sizes and consumes far more of each day. Researchers emphasize that it is urgent for the nation to develop consensus on specific strategies for each urban travel corridor now, since major projects, programs, and funding strategies take a decade or more to develop. Using a balanced and diversified approach that focuses on more of everything, researchers say, is the best way forward.
SOURCE: Texas A&M Transportation Institute