North Texans waste an average of 58 hours a year — nearly 2 1/2 days — while stuck in traffic, according to an urban mobility report by the Texas Transportation Institute. The study by the institute at Texas A&M University uses traffic data from 2005, the most recent year available.
Twenty-five years ago, the average Metroplex traveler lost only 10 hours a year.
"If you look at the last 10 years, the population of Dallas, Fort Worth and Arlington has gone up about a million people ... so the fact that congestion is on the rise isn’t a surprise," said study co-author David Schrank.
Overall, D-FW ranks fifth in the nation in terms of wasted time on the road. In Los Angeles, drivers lose 72 hours a year. Drivers in San Francisco, Washington and Atlanta all lose 60 hours a year. But none of those cities experienced as dramatic a quarter-century change as the Metroplex.
Wasted time is considered time spent on the road in poor driving conditions — stop-and-go traffic — and does not include the time motorists would normally spend driving at or near the speed limit in good conditions.
The thorough report, which is released every two years, analyzes congestion in all 437 urban areas of the U.S., and provides detailed rankings for the 85 largest areas.
In North Texas, the situation would be much worse if the Metroplex hadn’t built high-occupancy vehicle lanes, installed highway cameras to track troubled areas and trained police to clear accidents quicker. Those kinds of improvements save motorists about 10 percent in commuting costs, including wasted fuel and lost productivity, Schrank said.
"The investment in improvements is really making a difference," he said, adding that the estimated savings to the region is $215 million a year.
The study also concludes that if public transportation such as buses and trains were not available in the Metroplex, another $102 million a year would have to be spent accommodating transit riders on the roads.
Despite those savings, North Texas is still losing about $2.7 billion a year to congestion.
The study recommends that populated areas across the U.S. not only continue to improve existing roads, but also add new lanes.
The study is the most detailed to date, Schrank said. Because technology has made it easier to track real-time traffic, many figures from previous urban mobility reports have been updated.
*Nationally, 2.9 billion gallons of fuel are wasted because of congestion. That’s enough to fill 58 supertanker ships.
*Gridlock costs the U.S. economy $78 billion, including wasted fuel and lost job hours.
*In North Texas, the number of vehicle miles driven on freeways increased to 57.3 million in 2005, compared with 49.3 million in 2001. Meanwhile, the number of trips taken on public transportation or in carpools decreased to 82 million in 2005, compared to 85 million in 2001.
*So-called rush-hour traffic in Dallas-Fort Worth now lasts for 7.6 hours a day, compared with 7.2 hours in 2001 and 2.9 hours in 1982.