Congestion bad in big cities, and getting worse, study shows

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The Los Angeles metropolitan area led the nation in traffic gridlock in 2005, with rush-hour drivers spending an extra 72 hours a year on average stuck in traffic, according to a study by the Texas Transportation Institute released Tuesday, Sept. 18.

The report, available at, also found traffic congestion grew in all 437 large, medium and small urban centers in 2005. In the last 20 years, travel has risen by 105 percent in metropolitan areas, but road capacity has increased only 45 percent.

The metropolitan areas of Atlanta, San Francisco-0akland and Washington, D.C.-Virginia-Maryland were tied for the second-most congested areas, the study found. According to the study, drivers in those three areas spent an extra 60 hours on average jammed in traffic during peak periods, defined as 6 a.m. to 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.

According to the report, drivers in the Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington area endured average delays of 58 hours. San Diego drivers had an average delay of 57 hours, and Houston drivers faced an average delay of 56 hours. The study found that Detroit was in a three-way tie with San Jose, Calif., and Orlando, Fla., with average holdups of 54 hours.

Traffic forced U.S. urban residents to travel an extra 4.2 billion hours and buy 2.9 billion more gallons of fuel in 2005, for a total cost of $78 billion, the study showed. That was 220 million hours and 140 million gallons higher than 2004, and the total cost climbed $5 billion.

Focusing on popular corridors to ease choke points would help solve the problem, the study determined, but work schedules also must be made more flexible, and commercial-residential areas should be developed to allow more people to walk to work.