If you thought fees, or nonexistent customer service or high fuel prices were the biggest problems facing travelers, think again. It’s traffic, according to the Texas Transportation Institute’s 2009 Annual Urban Mobility Report.
This chart shows the total cost of congestion for each population size group. It accounts for the amount of wasted time and fuel due to traffic congestion. The total cost of congestion in the urban areas is $87.2 billion in 2007 or an average of $757 per peak-period traveler.
Let’s put $87 billion into a little perspective.
• If you had that much money in single-dollar bills, a stack would be 28,998,000 feet, or over 5,492 miles. That’s a round-trip between Washington and Los Angeles.
• The 2003 Iraq war package cost U.S. taxpayers $87 billion.
• We’re not above throwing $87 billion away, either. The Fed gave Lehman Brothers a loan for that amount back in the day.
As you might expect, bigger cities are more affected by traffic than rural areas. More than 20 urban areas had a total annual congestion cost of at least $1 billion each. And the areas with populations over 3 million account for about 57 percent of the congestion cost.
No matter what you do, traffic gets worse. Higher fuel prices only seem to make the numbers level off a little.
The bigger problem may be how we see this issue — or, more to the point, fail to see this issue.
Traffic doesn’t exactly make headlines. If you read this site and others like it, or pick up one of the few surviving newspaper travel sections, you’ll see that traffic is hardly ever mentioned.
Maybe if we started talking about it, we could do something about it.