The average American will spend almost a full work week in traffic, according to a new study by the Texas Transportation Institute. The 38 hours per year the average commuter spends stuck in their car every year means 26 extra gallons of gas and $710 per person.
Traffic congestion continues to worsen in American cities of all sizes, creating a $78 billion annual drain on the U.S. economy in the form of 4.2 billion lost hours and 2.9 billion gallons of wasted fuel—that's 105 million weeks of vacation and 58 fully-loaded supertankers.
And, if one full work week wasted in traffic isn't enough, the still reigning champ of American traffic congestion has that number almost doubled. Commuters in Los Angeles and its surrounding areas will spend approximately 72 hours a years stuck in their cars - and some are saying that 72 hours/year might be a low figure - by as much as 40%.
Texas researchers assumed that traffic is traveling at an average of 35 mph during peak travel times. However, [Southern California Association of Governments] planners say that sensors buried in the pavement of major freeways in the Los Angeles area show that the average speed during rush hours is closer to 20 mph.
The study shows a sharp rise in traffic delays over the past 25 years. Compare 14 hours per year in 1982 and 18 hours in 1985 with 38 for 2005, when the reports' data was collected. And, that number could have been even worse. According to the American Public Transportation Association, public transportation use lessened total travel time by 541 million hours nationwide. That translates into 340 million gallons of fuel, and an estimated $10.2 billion in congestion costs.
For ways to get on board with public transportation, see our How to Green Your Public Transportation guide.