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Time flies when traffic doesn’t: Congestion costs Charlotte drivers 57 hours a year

If you have the sense that congestion on Charlotte freeways is getting worse, and that traffic jams seem longer as the work week drags on, consider yourself validated.

Drivers in metro Charlotte spend 57 hours a year stuck in traffic delays, says the annual Urban Mobility Report by the Texas A&M Transportation Institute. Evening rush hour has the biggest delays, the report says, and congestion builds through the week to peak on Fridays.

If there’s a sunny side, it’s that drivers in 27 U.S. cities have it even worse than those in Charlotte.

The data, which is from 2017, shows a steady uptick of wasted wheel time since the end of the 2007-2008 recession. The link between economic growth and congestion “is as dependable as gravity,” the report says.

In 1980, commuters in U.S. cities on average spent about 20 hours a year stuck in traffic. By 2017, it was 54 hours. The report calculates that the 2017 delays wasted 3.3 billion gallons of fuel and cost consumers $166 billion, or about $1,000 per commuter.

Raleigh drivers spend 42 hours a year congestion delays, the report says. Texas A&M collaborated on it with INRIX, a company that captures traffic speed data for most major roads in urban areas.

Traffic congestion is at the highest measured level in most cities, the report says.

Common solutions to ease gridlock — such as building more roads and public transportation, improving traffic operations, changing land development styles and deploying advanced technology — haven’t worked well enough.

“The mix of solutions that are used is relatively less important than the amount of solution being implemented,” the report concludes. “All the potential congestion-reducing strategies should be considered, and there is a role and location for most of the strategies.”

But assuming the rates of population growth and congestion match those of 2012 to 2017, the report says, commuter delays will rise to a national average of 62 hours by 2025.

Bruce Henderson writes about transportation, emerging issues and interesting people for The Charlotte Observer. His reporting background is in covering energy, environment and state news.
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