A Designation Chicago Would Gladly Relinquish: Worst Traffic in the Country

January 20, 2011

Chicago residents stuck in traffic should take comfort in knowing that the nation sympathizes with us.

The 2010 Urban Mobility Report was released on Thursday to show that the Chicago region is No. 1 in the country for traffic congestion.

Lucky us.

The report, which studied mobility issues in 439 U.S. urban areas, found that commuters in Chicago spent an average of 70 hours stuck in traffic in 2009.

The national average was 34 hours.

I’m not sure if this is a consolation, but Chicago had company: Washington D.C. tied Chicago for first with 70 hours as well.

The top 10 cities for traffic congestion in 2009:

Busy street in downtown chicago on a very hot day* Chicago: 70 hours

* Washington, D.C.: 70 hours

* Southern California: 63 hours

* Houston: 58 hours

* San Francisco-Oakland: 49 hours

* Dallas-Fort Worth: 48 hours

* Boston: 48 hours

* Atlanta: 44 hours

* Seattle: 44 hours

* New York-Newark: 42 hours

Traffic delays don’t just give drivers headaches, they also cost them money.

The report, published by the Texas Transportation Institute at Texas A&M University, said Chicago commuters lost the most money in the nation from traffic delays at an average of $1,738 per driver.

The cost to the average commuter nationwide: $808.

Washington D.C. wasted the most gas at 57 gallons each. Chicagoans burned 52 gallons of gas per commuter in 2009.

For the first time, the report tracked the impact of traffic congestion on the trucking industry.

Guess which region ranked No. 1 for extra time trucks needed to complete trips because of heavy traffic?

You guessed it: Chicago!

The trucking delays equaled 31.7 million hours and cost businesses in the Chicago region $3.3 billion in 2009.

So what can we do about it?

The researchers offer recommendations for reducing traffic congestion, including:

* Get the most out of the transportation system we have.

* Add public transportation in places where it’s needed most.

* Implement ridesharing and flexible work time strategies to avoid “rush hours.”

* Provide more choices including alternate routes, telecommuting and more toll lanes.

* Diversify land development patterns to make walking, biking and mass transit more practical.

“There is no rigid prescription – no ‘best way’ – to address congestion problems,” said reseracher Tim Lomax. “The most effective strategy is one where agency actions are complemented by efforts of businesses, manufacturers, commuters and travelers. Each region must identify the projects, programs and policies that achieve goals, solve problems and capitalize on opportunities.”

For more information on this report, visit mobility.tamu.edu, but not while you are stuck in Chicago traffic.

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