NEWS-SENTINEL EDITORIAL: Caught in traffic? Just be thankful you don’t work in LA or even Indy

Drivers caught in traffic during their daily commute to work in Fort Wayne may take some solace in a report that highlights how much worse things are in other cities across the country.

The 2019 Urban Mobility Report, published by The Texas A&M Transportation Institute with cooperation from INRIX, examined data from 494 urban areas in the U.S. to calculate how Americans experience “the negative effects of congestion levels in their daily lives.”

Researchers found that the average commuter in America wasted nearly seven full working days (54 hours) in extra traffic delays in 2017, which meant more than $1,000 in personal costs in excess time and wasted fuel.

When thinking of commuter delays, many may think of Los Angeles, and rightly so. LA is No. 1 in the nation in time and money wasted as their average commuters spent 119 hours in 2017 in traffic delays, amounting to an average of $2,440 in costs per driver.

By comparison, the No. 1 city in Indiana is Indianapolis, where the average time spent in traffic delays for auto commuters was 48 hours in 2017, the latest year for data, ranking our capital city 42nd in the nation.

Fort Wayne commuters, however, averaged only 18 hours per year, at an average cost of $376 per driver.

A “commuter” in this report is anyone who travels in the city during the peak traffic periods of 6-10 a.m. and 3-7 p.m.

Kokomo and Columbus had the best numbers among the Indiana cities in the study, averaging only 8 hours per commuter, Kokomo at a cost of $170 per driver and Columbus at $174. Other Indiana urban areas included in the study included Michigan City-LaPorte (10 hours); Muncie (11 hours); Anderson (12 hours); Elkhart and South Bend (both 13 hours); Bloomington (15 hours); Evansville (17 hours), and Lafayette (18 hours).

“These are real impacts to people and businesses in our cities, and the problem does not appear to be letting up, especially for fast-growing areas,” wrote Marc Williams of the Texas Department of Transportation, which sponsored the study. “Over the past 10 years, the total cost of delay in our nation’s top urban areas has grown by nearly 47 percent. The value of investing in our nation’s transportation infrastructure in a strategic and effective manner cannot be overstated as these added costs impact our national productivity, quality of life, economic efficiency and global competitiveness.”

Researchers say the number of hours commuters lose to traffic congestion has nearly tripled since data collection began in 1982. And the nationwide cost of traffic delays has increased more than 10 times.

So what can be done to alleviate the growing problem? The authors of the report say states and cities have been addressing their congestion problems with a variety of strategies. The conclusion of the report offers the following approaches:

• Getting more productivity out of the existing road and public transportation systems is vital to reducing congestion and improving travel time reliability.

• Businesses and employees can use a variety of strategies to modify their work schedules, freight delivery procedures, traveling times and travel modes to avoid the peak periods, use less vehicle travel and increase the amount of electronic “travel.”

• In growth corridors, there also may be a role for additional road and public transportation capacity to move people and freight more rapidly and reliably.

• Some areas are seeing renewed interest in higher density living in neighborhoods with a mix of residential, office, shopping and other developments. These places can promote shorter trips that are more amenable to walking, cycling or public transportation modes.

Locally, we are seeing some of these strategies take shape, especially in more opportunities for urban residences and potential projects such as Electric Works.

In the meantime, we also see the ongoing work on our streets and construction downtown as potentially increasing the current level of traffic congestion this year. But the end result, we hope, will keep our level of wasted time and money for Fort Wayne commuters low on the list among U.S. cities.


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