Life On The Road
Singing the gridlock blues
Traffic and congestion are the bane of all motorists, especially big-city commuters and over-the-road professionals who battle the nation’s bulging roads on a daily basis. Here’s a few statistics to chew on, courtesy of a 2005 study by the Texas Transportation Institute:
• Congestion in America costs
$63.1 billion a year in terms of lost productivity and wasted fuel.
• “Rush hour” now lasts six to seven hours a day.
• Commuters waste 2.3 billion gallons of fuel a year simply from idling in traffic jams.
The scary thing is, those numbers are a few years old, and, as every over-the-road professional knows all too well, traffic has only gotten worse.
Want some more numbers? You got ’em:
• Highway congestion will continue to increase, according to the TTI, and the economic cost to the nation will exceed $90 billion by 2009.
• By 2020, the U.S. Department of Transportation says the average American motorist will spend almost 36 hours a year stuck in gridlocked traffic.
According to forecasts from the U.S. Census Bureau and the DOT…
• The driving age population in the United States will increase from 210 million in 2000 to 256 million in 2020.
• The annual vehicle miles traveled in the U.S. will increase from 2.8 trillion miles in 2000 to 4.2 trillion in 2020. Truck freight volumes will nearly double from 9 billion tons in 2000 to almost 17 billion tons in 2020.
Can anything be done? The DOT is handing out $850 million to Miami, Minneapolis, New York, San Francisco and Seattle to help them wage war against traffic congestion. The cities—winners of a federal contest that called for innovative ways to fight traffic—will use tolls in their plans. Most cities’ plans call for congestion pricing, which involves charging tolls based on the level of traffic. In Miami, for example, more than a third of the city’s award will be used to convert 22 congested miles of Interstate 95 into two high-occupancy toll lanes in each direction.
The Florida Department of Transportation estimates that tolls will range from 50 cents to $6, depending on the amount of traffic. New York City plans to spend $10.4 million of its $354.5 million award to institute a program that would charge cars $8 and trucks $21 per day to enter or leave Manhattan below 86th Street between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m.
Drivers don’t want to pay for roads that have always been free, while truckers have more specific concerns. The vice president of one trucking company says, “We are concerned that these programs only concentrate on commuter congestion and just assume that this will take care of freight. I don’t think it’s a good assumption to make.”
Sources: TTI, DOT, Roemer Report (used with permission)