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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.

No Spit, Saliva Tests Show Driving Really Does Stress You Out

Want to relax while commuting -- or on your Memorial Day adventure? Try singing.

by on May.24, 2011

It could be anywhere, these days.

Americans will log literally billions of miles on the highway over the long Memorial Day weekend.  And while we may like to think about open road adventures, the traditional start of the summer season is just as likely to bring endless traffic jams as millions of motorists cram onto the roads heading for the same ocean shores, theme parks and lake-front cottages.

The fact is, we live in our cars for play and for work, the typical commuter traveling about 148 miles a week, according to Experian Automotive – though that’s actually down a bit from five years ago, reflecting the impact of unemployment perhaps more than anything else.

Whether you’re heading out for a vacation or just to the office, independent research reveals that driving really is hazardous to your health – even if you never get into an accident.  The big problem is stress, reveals a worldwide study commissioned by TomTom, one of the major navigation system manufacturers.  But the study also reveals some creative ways motorists have come up with to reduce stress levels.

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Researchers measured stress levels by looking for physiological markers in participants’ saliva.  They found that women experienced an 8.7% increase in stress while driving in traffic.  But for men, stress levels soared by 60%.  Curiously, half of all men and two-thirds of the women involved in the study insisted that they didn’t feel stressed after spending 20 minutes in traffic.

“Men, in particular, show a strong acute physiological ‘fight or flight’ response. The fact that they are not always aware of this could indicate that driving regularly in dense traffic could have a profound effect on their health,” said David Moxon, the health psychologist who oversaw the research.