Is Traffic Pretty Bad These Days, Or Am I Imagining It?

Gas prices are high, the environment is low, and we’re regularly told about how much more efficiently we’re driving, if we’re driving at all.

So one would think that the one golden ray of sunshine here would be a drop in road congestion, right?


As a matter of fact, traffic is terrible. Roads are packed, and they’re getting packeder. There was a little dip in congestion a couple years ago, yes, but according to the 2011 Urban Mobility Report that just came out earlier this week from the Texas Transportation Institute, things have since gone the other direction in a big, bad way.

Rush hour has morphed into a six hour-rush, which, if you do the math, makes it the half-day rush. No region has been spared, and Boston is right up there in terms of awfulness, not far from Dallas, New York, and Atlanta.

Not to be a downer, but a few figures to think about next time you hop behind the wheel.

In 2010 traffic congestion:

  • Pulled $101 billion from our collective, national pockets due to time delays and to the 1.9 billion gallons of wasted gas;
  • Added 4.8 billion hours to America’s collective commute. (Which the TTI helpfully points out is the equivalent of more than 1,400 days of Americans playing Angry Birds. This also boils down to 4 full vacation days to each and every one of us.)

The Boston area is even worse. Per individual, we each lost about 47 hours per year in delays, burned through 21 gallons of gas, and wasted $980 dollars. Per commuter. Combined, it comes to 117,234,000 hours, 51,806,000 gallons of gas, and $2,393 million thrown away by all commuters.

As the economy improves(ish), things will most likely get worse. In the words of the TTI, “the outlook is not sunshine and kittens.”

I blew a giant flat in my bike tire the other day and have been driving to work ever since. But somehow, I’m feeling a little more inclined toward the bus at this point. Putting another car on the roads … it feels downright cruel to a city I love.