Sitting in traffic isn't just annoying, it's expensive. A new report from the Texas Transportation Institute, via CBS Moneywatch, finds commuters during peak timess in 12 American cities spent an average of more than $1,000 worth of time and gas idling in traffic in 2009.
TTI's annual Urban Mobility Report measures the cost of delays to commuters and freight truck drivers and adds that to the cost of fuel to run idling cars and trucks to come up with a measure of how much traffic congestion costs America. The total? $115 billion in 2009 alone.
To put that number in perspective, if traffic congestion were an industry, it would surpass the size of the motion picture industry and the music recording industry combined.
The largest U.S. cities predictably paid the highest prices for congestion per capita. The average commuter paid $1,166 worth of congestion costs, far above the national average of $808 per peak commuter. These numbers, while pretty horrible, are actually lower than 2007, thanks to the crushing economic downturn (see, recessions aren't all bad, right?).
What that means is that if and when the economy picks up to pre-recession levels, congestion costs are just going to head higher. For all you commuters out there, that means it may be time to invest in a car with better gas mileage so you can be stuck in traffic more efficiently, or failing that, to move closer to work (probably impossible because you're underwater), use public transportation or car pool.
If you're interested in where your city's per commuter congestion costs fell, TTI has a nifty set of maps laying out the results in the 439 urban areas they surveyed. Here's the top 10 list of the worst offenders (via CBS Moneywatch):
1. Chicago: $1,738 (70 hours/52 gallons)
2. Washington, D.C.: $1,555 (70 hours/57 gallons)
3. Los Angeles/Long Beach: $1,464 (63 hours/50 gallons)
4. Houston: $1,322 (58 hours/52 gallons)
5. Baltimore: $1,218 (50 hours/43 gallons)
6. San Francisco: $1,112 (49 hours/39 gallons)
7. Boston: $1,112 (48 hours/36 gallons
8. Dallas/Ft. Worth: $1,077 (48 hours/38 gallons)
9. Denver: $1,057 (47 hours/38 gallons)
10. Seattle: $1,056 (44 hours/35 gallons)
What do you think? What should people do to lower commuting costs? As you know, I like road trains, but are there any other public policy solutions you think could work?