Unnecessary fuel waste + irrevocable delay = a price too high to pay

Following hot on the heels of the Federal Highway Administration’s report regarding mid-year driving and mileage data, comes the 2015 Urban Mobility Scorecard from the Texas A&M University’s Transportation Institute and INRIX, which details congestion, delay and other important motor-vehicle-related data. It’s not welcoming news.

INRIX and the TTI in an Aug. 26, 2015 press release reported: “America’s traffic congestion recession is over. Just as the U.S. economy has regained nearly all of the 9 million jobs lost during the downturn, a new report produced by INRIX and the Texas A&M Transportation Institute (TTI) shows that traffic congestion has returned to pre-recession levels.

“According to the 2015 Urban Mobility Scorecard, travel delays due to traffic congestion caused drivers to waste more than 3 billion gallons of fuel and kept travelers stuck in their cars for nearly 7 billion extra hours – 42 hours per rush-hour commuter. The total nationwide price tag: $160 billion, or $960 per commuter.”

TTI and INRIX went on in the press release in question to state that, “with a continued good economy,” by 2020, yearly per-commuter delay will climb to 47 hours (up from 42 hours); nationwide total delay will jump to 8.3 billion hours (up from 6.9 billion hours); and congestion’s total cost will soar to $192 billion (up from $160 billion).

Here is some of what the American Public Transportation Association had to say in response.

“Public transportation is effective in saving hundreds of millions of hours of delay and hundreds of millions of gallons of fuel. In fact without public transportation, our current congested roadways would surely be gridlock. In earlier data from the 2013 Urban Mobility Report, it showed that travelers would have suffered an additional 865 million hours of delay and consumed 450 million more gallons of fuel.

“While we face the expiration of federal funding for the nation’s transportation infrastructure expiring on October 29, Americans recognize the urgent need to invest in public transportation for the many benefits it provides, which include economic benefits as well as relief from roadway congestion. According to a recent survey conducted by the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) and the Mineta Transportation Institute, 75 percent of Americans support using tax dollars to improve public transportation, and close to 70 percent agree that Congress should increase the level of investment in public transportation infrastructure.

“Americans realize our infrastructure needs must be addressed with long-term solutions. While other nations significantly invest in their transportation infrastructure, America now ranks 28th in infrastructure investment and continues to fall behind our global competitors. While we continue to sit in traffic, one has to ask, is this really the best America can do?”


And, while we’re on the subject, here is one more item of import.

“The Center for Clean Air Policy and the Center for Neighborhood Technology in the High Speed Rail and Greenhouse Gas Emissions in the U.S., January 2006 study concluded, ‘Current projections show that passengers would take 112 million trips on high speed rail in the U.S. in 2025, traveling more than 25 billion passenger miles. This would result in 29 million fewer automobile trips and nearly 500,000 fewer flights. We calculated a total emissions savings of 6 billion pounds of CO2 per year (2.7 MMT [Million Metric Tons] CO2) if all proposed high speed rail systems studied for this project are built. Savings from cancelled automobile and airplane trips are the primary sources of the emissions savings; together these two modes make up 80 percent of the estimated emissions savings from all modes.’”1


  1. Alan Kandel, “Why We Need High-Speed Rail and Why Trains Are Needed Now,” California Progress Report, Nov. 15, 2010.


Image above: Connor Harris

This post was last revised on Dec. 19, 2020 @ 7:42 a.m. Pacific Standard Time.

– Alan Kandel