The down economy had a bright side in the form of reduced traffic congestion, according to the Texas Transportation Institute’s (TTI) 2010 Urban Mobility report. Now that the economy is recovering, congestion is increasing, again.
Congestion costs auto commuters and cities. TTI, which is part of Texas A&M University, calculates congestion’s financial cost in lost time and wasted fuel. New technology has allowed TTI to expand the number of rankings for the 439 urban areas in the report.
The Twin Cities, under the category of ‘large urban area’, ranks near the top of several lists – which isn’t a good thing. Congestion delays each Twin Cities auto commuter 43 hours and wastes 37 gallons of fuel per year for every driver, according to TTI’s findings. This puts the total yearly cost for each auto commuter at $970, the nation’s fifteenth highest. Minneapolis-St. Paul’s total congestion cost is $1.69 billion, the nation’s seventeenth highest.
The TTI’s annual report has historically been held in high regard for congestion analysis, but several transportation groups have criticized its methodology and scope. One of the major criticisms is that it focuses too heavily on automobile commuters. Another criticism is that it focuses on time spent in congestion rather than total commute length, which we’ve written about before. This latest report attempts to address some of these criticisms by taking a broader perspective and offering a variety of recommendations.
Its primary focus remains on auto commuters, but one of its major congestion solutions is public transportation. It’s report points out that if there was no public transportation service, a whopping $18.8 billion would be added to the national congestion cost. The other solutions are added road and transit capacity, as well as increased efficiency in those systems.
While the TTI report isn’t perfect, it provides an important perspective on the nation’s state of congestion. The fact that the Twin Cities ranks poorly is important to both acknowledge and work to improve. This can be done through increased public transportation, like the Central Corridor light rail and Cedar Avenue bus rapid transit, as well as improved efficiency throughout our infrastructure. This can only be done through dedicated public investment for the transportation that moves Minnesota forward.
Photo credit: John McNab, creative commons