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Stuck in Traffic? Just Throw Your Money Out the Window

Average commuter wasted $960 due to traffic snarls.

by on Aug.15, 2016

Traffic congestion continues to get worse across the country, despite spending on new roads.

For Detroit commuters, the week is getting off to a bad start – and the headaches could stretch on for a full 14 years. That’s how long authorities expect it will take to complete the reconstruction of a major stretch of Interstate 75.

Add several other major Motor City construction projects and the daily drive to work is likely to have even more snags than usual. But Detroit is far from unique, as drivers in most other major cities will readily attest to. Indeed, the average commuter wastes more than an entire work week stuck in traffic each year, something that costs almost $1,000 in lost time and added fuel bills, according to a new study.

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About 86% of American workers head to work by car each day, noted the Auto Insurance Center, with more than three out of four commuters driving alone. The typical morning drive runs to 25.7 minutes.

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L.A., San Francisco and New York Face Nation’s Worst Traffic Congestion

But Mexico City, Bangkok, Istanbul have world's worst traffic.

by on Mar.22, 2016

L.A. traffic is the worst in the U.S., according to study.

Los Angeles has, by far, the worst traffic problem in America, with some of the “nastiest gridlock” facing cities along the West Coast, according to navigation company Tom Tom. New York and a number of booming metro areas in the South are also facing major traffic problems, according to the Tom Tom Traffic Index.

But American commuters actually have it easy compared to their counterparts in many other parts of the world. Globally, Los Angeles ranked only tenth, according to the new study, far behind Mexico City, Bangkok and Istanbul which, Tom Tom reported, have the worst roadway congestion of any major cities around the globe.

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Drivers in Mexico City can expect to spend an extra 219 hours a year stuck in traffic, the study indicated. Meanwhile, L.A. traffic means motorists waste about 164 hours, “almost a full week stuck in their cars,” said a summary of the new study.

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DOT Launches Largest Test of “Connected” Cars

Goal of reducing crashes, easing highway congestion.

by on Aug.21, 2012

"Connected" cars travel down the highway.

The U.S. Department of Transportation and the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute, or UMTRI, are getting ready to launch the largest experiment ever involving connected vehicles that use wireless signals to talk to one another in an effort to improve highway safety while also easing traffic.

The first-of-its-kind, large-scale experiment will test a Wi-Fi-like technology that allows vehicles and highway infrastructure to communicate with each other. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, such technology could help prevent as many as three out of every four highway deaths.

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UMTRI will conduct the year-long project in Ann Arbor, Michigan where nearly 3,000 cars, trucks and buses equipped with vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure communication devices will “talk” to each other and to highway infrastructure systems.

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Road Congestion Wasting Time – and 1.9 Bil Gallons of Gas

Total cost is over $100 billion annually.

by on Mar.26, 2012

Traffic congestion is costing Americans over $100 billion a year, reports a new study.

Worsening road congestion is wasting plenty of time and money – especially when you consider the rising cost of gas.

A new study by the U.S. Treasury Department finds that traffic snarls wasted 1.9 billion gallons of fuel last year — about 5% of the gas American motorists used.  At the current price, that would work out to more than $7 billion nationwide.  Other recent studies have indicated that Americans collectively waste about 5 billion hours in traffic, meanwhile, which works out to billions of dollars more in lost productivity.

In all, the study – prepared in support of the White House effort to upgrade the nation’s highway infrastructure – suggests the total cost in time and money works out to about $100 billion a year.

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The cost of poor quality roads, meanwhile, results in about $400 in added yearly maintenance costs for the typical urban driver.  That runs as high as $756 annually for a motorist in the metropolitan San Jose areas, according to the report.

The Obama Administration is hoping that the report will hope get members of the House of Representatives to finally act on a federal highway bill that has been stalled on Capitol Hill.  The Senate has already passed a two-year measure that will fund infrastructure and transportation programs – and allow the government to continue collecting federal fuel taxes.

House Republicans, however, have been pressing for a five-year, $260 billion measure – but it has so far failed to win enough support.  If the House fails to act – or if the two sides of the Hill fail to come up with a compromise – before the end of the month all federal highway and transportation programs could come to a halt.  Even fuel tax collection would be stopped.  By some estimates, the impact could be as much as 2 million jobs.

House Speaker John Boehner has shifted his position to support the Senate measure but it is unclear whether he can sway enough of his fellow GOP lawmakers.

But there is growing pressure to reach that compromise.

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, says the Treasury Department report is “the latest reminder that it’s time to stop the partisan bickering in Washington and invest in our nation’s infrastructure.”

The study reveals that:

  • Nine out of 10 Americans spend $1 out of every $7 they earn on transportation;
  • Simply to repair the crumbling U.S. bridge and roadway infrastructure will require an annual $85 billion in spending over the next 20 years;
  • Yet the U.S. spends less on transportation infrastructure than the majority of other major economies, such as Britain and Germany.  For the U.S., it is just 2% of GDP compared to 5% in Europe.  Fast-growing China is currently investing 9%, though that includes a push to create a roadway infrastructure.

The study also reports that the use of highway ridership soared to 10.4 billion paid trips last year, up from about 8 billion in 1996.  The vast majority of that growth has come on light and heavy rail systems.

Ironically, the impact of traffic congestion might have been worse had it not been for the recession, which has seen millions of Americans thrown out of work.  A separate study by Texas A&M University found that the number of hours Americans lost to traffic snarls slipped from a record 5.2 billion hours in 2007 – before the wholesale collapse of the economy – to just 4.6 billion the year after.  The figure has only slowly been rising again as the economy recovers.

On a personal level, the study found the average American losing more than 30 hours annually to traffic congestion, with the figure rising to more than 70 hours in cities like L.A., Washington, D.C., and Chicago.

Traffic Jams Tied to Wide Range of Health Problems in Young and Old

New studies link high exhaust levels to everything from autism to Alzheimers.

by on Nov.10, 2011

Is traffic a major health hazard?

Anyone who has ever spent an hour creeping ever so slowly forward in a seemingly endless traffic jam knows what such tie-ups can do to your blood pressure – but a series of recent studies suggest that the increased exhaust that congestion creates can create serious health issues not only for motorists but those living nearby a highway.

Studies from places as far-flung as Boston and Beijing show that such heavily polluted air may be linked to brain inflammation similar to what is seen in elderly Alzheimer’s patients, while children born to mothers who lived close to major roads were twice as likely to suffer from autism.

“There is real cause for concern,” Annette Kirshner, a neurochemist at the National Institute of Environmental Health Science, told the Wall Street Journal, though she cautioned that with much of the new research yet to be confirmed – or fully understood – “we ought to proceed with caution.”

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But there is little doubt the new research is worrisome — and may lend support to those who are calling for a widespread switch from the internal combustion engine to alternative power systems such as battery-electric vehicles, or BEVs.

Among the newer studies, researchers have found: