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America’s Drivers Continue to Spend More Time Stuck in Traffic, 2016 Data Shows

America’s Drivers Continue to Spend More Time Stuck in Traffic, 2016 Data Shows

According to new data from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), drivers are spending more time stuck in rush-hour traffic than ever.  Increased congestion is outpacing system improvements gained from investments in gridlock reduction strategies, such as road widenings, better intermodal connections and traffic and demand management technologies.

Based on data from America’s 52 most populous metropolitan areas, FHWA’s “2016 Urban Congestion Trends” shows that the average congestion worsened, with drivers spending an additional three minutes stuck in traffic compared to 2015—with some areas improving and others deteriorating.  

Congested Atlanta Urban Highway

Congestion got worse during peak hours in 2016, as represented by the Travel Time Index which compares peak hour or commuter travel times to free flow travel times. The index increased slightly to 1.35 in 2016 from 1.34 in 2015, meaning that a trip taking 10 minutes in free-flow traffic would now take 13.5 minutes during peak hours. 

Other measures in the report showed a slight improvement, including the Planning Time Index which went from 2.65 in 2015 to 2.62 in 2016.  The Planning Time Index indicates how long a traveler should plan for a trip to ensure an on-time arrival – the worse the traffic, the larger the score.

In this case, a traveler planning a trip that would take 30 minutes in ideal conditions should plan on a close to 78-minute trip to ensure an on-time arrival. 

American cities depend on efficiently moving traffic, and these new data underscore the need to invest in technologies to do just that.  Giving better and more timely information about road conditions to drivers and traffic managers is critical. Brake lights on the road are brakes on the nation’s economy.  

America cannot afford to have traffic grinding to a halt in its largest cities. Building newer roads or widening existing ones to solve our traffic woes isn’t enough anymore – we must continue to look for both new and proven effective ways to keep America moving. 

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