Report: Chicago Traffic Congestion Improves…Barely

Good news drivers–Chicago’s traffic congestion is actually improving.

According to the Texas Transportation Institute’s annual Urban Mobility Report, Chicago has been replaced at number one by Washington DC dropping into the second spot in the for the nation’s worst traffic congestion.

This is due to mild improvements in several areas. But you might not feel the improvements, at least according to a researcher from Texas A&M University.

“Realistically, as drivers will tell you, you can’t really feel it,” says Texas Transportation Institute Research Engineer and co-author of the 2010 study Bill Eisele. “But Chicago’s ranking has gone down from first.”

Eisele says the main reason behind the drop in rank is due to a decrease in the number of hours Chicago commuters spend in rush hour traffic every year. Chicago dropped 3 hours from 74 hours per year to 71.

“That’s (71 hours) is an hour short of three full days you could be spending with friends, family or otherwise,” says Eisele.”

But Eisele says Chicago still ranks number one in one important area–congestion cost. Despite falling slightly from 2009, the 2010 study shows that driving cost the average commuter $1,568 per year in fuel and time spent in traffic. That nearly $1600 is nearly double the national average of $750 in extra costs paid by the average American commuter. In the aggregate, according to the study, this costs the Chicago economy a whopping $8.2 billion a year.

But another piece of good news is the length of time of Windy City rush hours. Last years, morning and evening rush hours added up to 5.75 hours per day. In 2010 this number dropped a half hour to 5.25 hours a day.

Part of the decrease according to Eisele is because of the current economic recession, who is worried that congestion will get substantially worse when the economy does finally recover.

“Less traffic, less economy, less folks on the road,” Eisele simply explains. “Now is the time to act and fix things while there is a steady state before things get bad (the economy improves). Now’s the time to invest in roads, invest in buses and trains and operate them more efficiently.”

2 Responses to Report: Chicago Traffic Congestion Improves…Barely

  1. And now some bone head wants to install toll gates on the Drive and have a downtown rush hour congestion tax. More ways to drive people and business out the city at a higher than they are already…

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