A cover story article in
USNews.com published on May 28, highlights the crisis of traffic
gridlock in America. The story, subtitled "Traffic is making millions
sick and tired. The bad news? It's going to get worse unless things
change in a real big way," cites a "blizzard of brand-new data (that)
confirms just how bad congestion has become."
Here's some of that
Since 1982, while the U.S.
population has grown nearly 20 percent, the time Americans spend
in traffic has jumped an amazing 236 percent.
In major American cities, the
length of the combined morning-evening rush hour has doubled, from
under three hours in 1982 to almost six hours today.
The average driver now spends
the equivalent of nearly a full workweek each year stuck in
Congestion costs Americans $78
billion a year in wasted fuel and lost time&endash;up 39 percent
businesses that depend on them&endash;say clogged roads are
choking off economic growth and reducing the nation's
Commercial truck travel
increased by 37 percent during the 1990s. By 2020, it's expected
to double in most parts of the country.
Studies repeatedly show that
people making long commutes are at a higher risk for a host of
maladies. High blood pressure, sleep deprivation, and depression
top the list.
On a typical day, the average
married mother with school-age children spends 66 minutes
driving&endash;taking more than five trips and covering 29
According to the most recent
federal data, the amount of time mothers spend behind the wheel
increased by 11 percent just between 1990 and 1995, and there's
every indication that the trend is continuing.
Moms spend more time driving
than they spend dressing, bathing, and feeding a
Stressed-out commuters with
little time for loved ones also don't have much time for community
Some 42,000 people are killed
in auto crashes each year, and 3 million are injured.
Washington, D.C., once dubbed
the murder capital of America, turns out to be a far less
dangerous place to live than several of its sprawling, distant
suburbs. That's because of the lower risk Washington residents
have of being killed while driving.
Suburbs are becoming less
attractive places to live. Cities are becoming more attractive. A
recent study by the Milken Institute, a think tank in Santa
Monica, confirms that aging downtowns and former warehouse
districts are often outpacing surrounding suburban locations as
magnets of high-tech employment.
Many businesses, when deciding
where to locate, now give increased consideration to traffic
conditions and commuting times.
The good news! "After a
half century of decline, ridership on mass transit is up
dramatically. Survey data show more people are forsaking their cars
for subway, train, and light-rail alternatives."
Ridership on the nation's public
transportation systems has grown by 21 percent since 1995 (compared
with an 11 percent increase in driving) and is now at the highest
levels in more than 40 years.
And, consider this. "Last
November, there were 553 state and local measures on ballots dealing
with transportation and growth issues. According to the Brookings
Institution, 85 percent of the initiatives calling for more mass
transit and alternative types of transportation passed."
The article goes on to ask the all
important question: "Will building new highways help people who don't
want to use mass transit or who can't afford to live where it's
available?" Citing more statistics and traffic projections the
article flat out says NO.
Congestion worsens as highways
widen. "Build a new road, and sprawling new development will soon
spring up to take advantage of the land that becomes accessible,"
says the authors.
Finally the article quotes a
recent survey sponsored by Smart Growth America, a new coalition of
public-interest groups, which asked a cross section of Americans:
"Which of the following proposals is the best long-term solution to
reducing traffic in your state? Build new roads; improve public
transportation, such as adding trains, buses and light rail; or
develop communities where people do not have to drive long distances
to work or shop."
"Three quarters of
respondents called for either improving mass transit or developing
less auto-dependent communities; just 21 percent called for building
new roads. Talk about a tipping point. America's long love affair
with the car, it seems, may have finally soured into a less healthy
relationship, one based not on freedom but on its opposite."
MORE STATS - courtesy of
the Associated Press
Drivers in Los Angeles spend
an average of 56 hours a year - more than a work week - stuck in
traffic. In Atlanta, the figure is 53 hours, double that of just
seven years ago.
Americans spend three times as
much time in traffic as they did 20 years ago.
The Texas Transportation
Institute, in its annual report on congestion in 68 urban areas,
found that the average person spent 36 hours a year sitting in
traffic in 1999, up from 11 hours in 1982.
All this congestion comes with
a price: $78 billion a year in wasted time and burned
Increased congestion has also
led to a rise in road rage.
Los Angeles had the worst
congested highways in the country, costing residents an estimated
$1,000 per person in wasted time and wasted gas as they spent 56
more hours a year on crowded freeways than they would have had to
spend on the roads if traffic moved freely.
In the nation's most populous
urban area, New York City and its suburbs, the average resident
sits in traffic an extra 34 hours a year and spends an average of
$595 in wasted time and burning gas.
In the Atlanta area, where the
population grew by more than one-third between 1990 and 2000, the
number of hours motorists sat in traffic more than doubled from 25
in 1992 to 53 in 1999. In 1982, the average Atlantan sat in
traffic for just 11 hours.
Nashville, Tenn., which saw
its population rise by a quarter over the last decade, saw its
congestion follow suit. The average resident there spent 42 extra
hours in traffic in 1999, up from 15 hours seven years
In the San Francisco-Oakland
region, residents spent an average of 42 hours a year in traffic
in 1999, up from 38 hours in 1997.