In the Magazine Business

The Cost of Getting Stuck in Traffic

Traffic Congestion Costs
Estimate of traffic congestion costs in the U.S., 2013: $124 billion; Forecast of traffic congestion costs in the U.S., 2030: $186 billion Source: INRIX and the Centre for Economics and Business Research

From New York to New Orleans, American drivers are all too familiar with traffic jams and the costs and delays that go with them. Missed appointments, time wasted and unhealthy stress levels are just some of the effects of overcrowded roads. Those costs add up.

According to a recent study, the annual cost of traffic congestion in the United States, mainly due to time lost and fuel wasted, totaled $124 billion last year. That’s more than twice what the federal government will spend this year on highways.

The traffic congestion study by INRIX and the Centre for Economics and Business Research found that the average annual cost amounts to $1,700 for every American, an amount comparable to what is spent on all apparel purchases in a year.

Since about three-quarters of American workers drive to work each day, traffic congestion has a very wide impact. And it’s only getting worse. In recent years, the percentage of people getting to work by carpooling, using public transportation or biking has either stagnated or declined. What’s more, the quality of the nation’s roads, highways and mass transportation systems has faltered as government agencies have limited their spending.

Meanwhile, the population continues to grow, the economy is improving, and more cars are expected on the nation’s roads. According to the study, unless some new approach reverses the growth of gridlock, the annual cost of traffic congestion will grow 50 percent to $186 billion by 2030. The average daily commute, currently around 50 minutes, is likely to get even worse.