• Americans are back to their pre-recession driving habits.
  • Washington, DC, is the worst in the nation for time spent commuting.
  • Even though gas is cheap, the average commuter unnecessarily spends $960 a year on wasted fuel.

According to the 2015 Urban Mobility Scorecard, compiled by traffic information and driver services provider INRIX and the Texas A&M Transportation Institute, D.C. drivers waste the most time due to traffic congestion. In the Washington, D.C. area, commuters each waste an average of 82 hours a year stuck in traffic.

The next worse are  Los Angeles (80 hours), San Francisco (78 hours), New York (74 hours), and San Jose (67 hours).

And over time, it’s only going to get worse.

By 2020, the report’s authors say, with a continued good economy:

  • Annual delay per commuter will grow from 42 hours to 47 hours.
  • Total delay nationwide will grow from 6.9 billion hours to 8.3 billion hours.
  • The total cost of congestion will jump from $160 billion to $192 billion.

Americans drove more than 3 trillion miles in the last 12 months, says the U.S. Department of Transportation. That’s a new record, eclipsing the 2007 peak.

Heavy traffic image via Shutterstock.

Heavy traffic image via Shutterstock.

The authors of the report suggest that there won’t be a quick fix for this growing problem. More roadway and transit investment is needed, but added capacity alone can’t solve congestion problems. Solutions must involve a variety of initiatives, including new construction, more efficiency and transportation options. Flexible work schedules are suggested as well.

Even though the report authors attribute a better economy and lower gas prices to the increase in time behind the wheel, all the time spent idling still hits the pocketbook hard. Travel delays due to traffic congestion caused drivers to waste more than 3 billion gallons of fuel and kept travelers stuck in their cars for nearly 7 billion extra hours – 42 hours per rush-hour commuter.

The total nationwide price tag: $160 billion, or $960 per commuter.

The problem has become so bad in major urban areas that drivers have to plan more than twice as much travel time as they would need to arrive on time in light traffic just stay ahead of potential delays such as bad weather, accidents and construction zones.

Findings in the 2015 Urban Mobility Scorecard are drawn from traffic speed data collected by INRIX on 1.3 million miles of urban streets and highways in 471 urban areas.

INRIX harnesses big data to reduce the individual, economic and environmental toll of traffic congestion. The company delivers traffic and driving-related insight, and analytical tools and services across six industries covering nearly five million miles of road in 41 countries.

Email Kimberley Sirk.

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