Copyright 2004 Star Tribune
Star Tribune (Minneapolis, MN)
September 8, 2004, Wednesday, Metro Edition
SECTION: NEWS; Pg. 1B
LENGTH: 736 words
HEADLINE: Lost time in traffic: 42 hours per year
BYLINE: Laurie Blake; Staff Writer
Twin Cities metro-area drivers can sense it when they're stuck in traffic, but now they have numbers from a national report to back them up:
A commute that should take 25 minutes in free-flowing traffic takes 33.5 minutes - 8.5 minutes longer - at rush hour.
Traffic jams on freeways and principal arterial streets lengthen rush-hour trips by 34 percent. The result: Commuters each waste an average of more than 42 hours a year in traffic delays.
Congestion delays stacked up to more than 54.6 million hours when all trips at all hours of the day are counted. That's up from 53 million in 2001. The total number of travel delays earns the metro area a rank of 6th among 27 urban areas of similar size (1 million to 3 million in population).
But delays aren't the only irritating consequence of congestion: The longer drivers wait in traffic, the more fuel they waste.
Nationwide, 1.2 billion gallons of fuel was wasted in 1982; that grew to 5.7 billion in 2002.
The latest Urban Mobility Report by the Texas Transportation Institute, which includes 85 cities nationwide, has become an annual reminder of a growth and transportation problem that is only getting worse. It's based on 2002 traffic data supplied by cooperating states, including Minnesota. The institute has been tracking urban travel conditions since 1982, when the metro area had no significant congestion.
The report's conclusion is that traffic congestion is growing in cities of all sizes, consuming more hours of the day, and delaying more travelers and shipments of goods.
And, cities nationwide aren't winning the fight against congestion. They are falling further behind with each passing year.
"We can see pretty clearly what 20 years of almost continuous economic growth can do to us," said Tim Lomax, an engineer and one of the study's authors.
If economic growth continues and transportation funding does not increase, "we shouldn't be surprised if we see even more congestion," he said.
In some cities, congestion leveled off in 2002 as the economy slowed. But in this metro area, for example, the 34 percent delay per trip remained unchanged from 2001.
The Minnesota Department of Transportation said recent reports from drivers indicate that congestion has not leveled off despite a lull in the economy.
The department projects that, despite a planned investment of about $5.6 billion for transportation over the next 21 years, congestion is going to get worse. "We need the transportation investment boosted to higher levels to be able to address those issues," said Tim Henkel, a MnDOT official.
The report found that if all people riding buses in Minnesota took cars instead, the area would have chalked up another 10 million hours of travel delay. Likewise, the cumulative effect of ramp metering, quick accident removal and synchronized signals spared drivers another 10 million hours of delay.
Taking heed of that finding, the Transportation Institute recommends that states try some congestion-easing strategies:
- Initiate more road and transit projects.
- Make more efficient use of existing roads and transit.
- Use tolls to manage demand at rush hours.
- Change development patterns to reduce trips.
U.S. Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta said Tuesday that the Bush administration endorses these strategies.
Next spring, Minnesota will join a growing list of states to experiment with tolls. MnDOT will open the Interstate Hwy. 394 bus-carpool lane to solo drivers who choose to pay a toll for a faster trip. MnDOT also is studying the prospects of adding lanes to metro-area freeways by making them toll lanes.
The Transportation Institute report is based on research conducted by each participating state. The states pay for the research but for the first time this year they didn't contribute funding for the report.
This year, the American Road and Transportation Builders Association and the American Public Transit Association funded it. They are lobbying groups for highway and transit improvements, and both used the report to urge Congress to increase federal funding for roads and transit.
Laurie Blake is at email@example.com.
The full report can be found at http://mobility.tamu.edu/ums.
LOAD-DATE: September 9, 2004