Thursday, February 09, 2023

Houston drops to #9 for traffic congestion

This week I'd like to do a simple re-post from Bob Poole's excellent Surface Transportation Innovations Newsletter at Reason, where Houston has dropped to #9 in the traffic congestion rankings with delay hours far below the worst cities like Chicago, Boston, NYC, Philly, Miami, SF, and LA. Highlights mine.

Traffic Congestion Roars Back, Despite Work from Home

The 2022 INRIX Global Traffic Scorecard was released last month, and it shows a strong resumption of metro area traffic congestion, despite the continued high level of telecommuting. The same pattern appears in major metro areas in Europe, Latin America, and South Africa.

The INRIX global top 25 most-congested metro areas table resembles the 2021 ranking, with London still in first place, Paris in third place, and Toronto moving up from 22nd to 7th place. The 10 most-congested metro areas worldwide had delays ranging from 121 hours per driver to 156 hours per driver in 2022.

For U.S. cities, Chicago moved up to 2nd  from 6th place, Boston zoomed from 18th to 4th, and Miami rose to 9th from the previous year’s 32nd place. Other areas rising a lot included Los Angeles, up to 14th from 33rd, San Francisco, from 15th from 34th, and Washington, D.C., which went from 99th to now 20th.

The changes in congestion rank for U.S. metro areas were nowhere near as dramatic as the worldwide changes. Here are the key 2022 INRIX figures for the top 10 metros.

2022 Rank (2021)Metro AreaAvg. Delay (hrs)Cost/driverCost per Metro
1 (2)Chicago155$2,618$9.5B
2 (4)Boston134$2,270$4.3B
3 (1)New York117$1,976$10.2B
4 (3)Philadelphia114$1,925$4.5B
5 (5)Miami105$1,773$4.5B
6 (6)Los Angeles  95$1,601$8.6B
7 (7)San Francisco  97$1,642$2.6B
8 (13)Washington  83$1.398$3.5B
9 (8)Houston  74$1,257$3.7B
10 (10)Atlanta  74$1,257$3.1B
Source: INRIX

Many factors are responsible for these traffic congestion results, but let me suggest a few that might be relevant. First, despite much rhetoric arguing that traffic congestion is a byproduct of low-density sprawl land-use patterns and that higher density and mass transit are the answer, the top four U.S. metro areas are all characterized by high-density and high-transit mode-share, in comparison with lower-density, low-transit Miami, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Atlanta.

Second, which of these areas have added express toll lanes to portions of their freeway systems? Miami, Los Angeles, San Francisco, the Virginia suburbs of Washington, DC, Houston, and Atlanta.

One other point about density and transit as the long-term solution: urban agglomeration benefits. Extensive research shows that large metro areas are generally more economically productive than smaller ones because a lot more positive-sum transactions can take place in the former—assuming there is fast and reliable transportation from any origin to any destination (since both residences and jobs are spread out all over the landscape). (See Alain Bartaud’s excellent book, Order Without Design, MIT Press, 2018)

Less-congested freeways, due to variably-priced express lanes, contribute to employers having a wider choice of qualified prospective hires and workers having many more good employment options. The same is true, in theory, of a large transit network. Yet, a series of “access to destinations” studies by University of Minnesota researchers have shown that in most large metro areas one can get to nearly all the potential jobs in 30-45 minutes by car, but to very few via transit.

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At 11:29 AM, February 10, 2023, Blogger VeracityID said...

Thanks for supporting my comments at AEI with timely data. I knew I could count on you! - Bill Reeves

At 12:20 PM, February 10, 2023, Blogger Tory Gattis said...

Bill, you were at the AEI event?? My apologies I didn't recognize you or get a chance to chat. My energy gas tank was running on empty so I left right after.

At 11:20 AM, February 11, 2023, Blogger VeracityID said...

I was the guy that droned on at the very end of the Q&A. But no worries. I'm a bit of a Michael Lind fanboy so I ran up to talk to him. Then I talked to Kotkin about "symbolic analysts". Really geeked out. When's the next event worth going to?

At 4:27 PM, February 11, 2023, Blogger Tory Gattis said...

No worries. Glad you enjoyed it. Nothing on the calendar right now, but I'll try to post it here and on Twitter for the next one (I dropped the ball with this one).


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