Friday, October 03, 2003

Texas A&M’s Texas Transportation Institute reports on traffic congestion.

Traffic congestion continues to rise in Texas cities

October 3, 2003

by James A. Cooley

The Lone Star Report
Volume 8, Issue 8
Copyright 2003

Texas A&M’s Texas Transportation Institute has released its 2003 annual urban mobility report. The overall conclusion is one with which a typical urban driver would readily agree: congestion has grown in populated areas of every size.

The amount of time spent in traffic delays in the 75 largest U.S. urban areas climbed from 7 hours annually in 1982 to 26 hours in 2001. This has increased by four hours in the last five years.

The same roads have to carry much more load, too. The number of passenger-miles on the major roads has increased by 91 percent during this same period, when public transit use was doubling.

The cost for all these delays was calculated at $69.5 billion; this includes 5.7 billion gallons of excess fuel consumption.

One particularly telling statistic was that factors like “crashes, vehicle breakdowns, weather, special events, construction and maintenance activities” accounted for about 50 percent of all roadway delays.

While the report advocates increases both in number of lane-miles of pavement and public transit options, it also highlighted proposals to make better use of existing transportation infrastructure.

For example, traffic signals on freeway entrance ramps that regulate the flow of traffic onto the highway created 73 million hours of delay reduction in 26 cities in 2001, the report said. Another 117 million hours of delay savings in 56 cities resulted from such strategies as “freeway incident management, service patrols and detections devices.” The plan here is to spot delay-makers like accidents and get them moved from the roadway before gridlock sets in.

The study said high-occupancy vehicle lanes provide 11 million hours of delay relief in 28 corridors in the eight urban areas where statistics were on hand. Even something as simple as coordinated signal lights was good for 16 million hours of delay savings in 75 cities.

The report views public transportation’s role in the overall mix as crucial. A total shift of public transit users to private vehicles, the researchers say, would lead to 1.1 billion hours of delay in 2001 in the 75 urban areas studied.

As for Texas cities, most saw increases in annual delays over the last five years that were above the national average. The Dallas-Fort Worth area came in tied for second nationally with a 12-hour increase, while Houston came in No. 5 with a 10-hour hike. San Antonio clocked in at twice the national delay average with an eight-hour delay increase, while Austin topped them with nine. El Paso, with seven hours of increases, also was above average.

Four Texas cities posted increases lower than the national average: Beaumont (three hours), Corpus Christi and Laredo (two hours each), and Brownsville (one hour). O

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