The 2nd Worst Traffic Congestion in the U.S.

That would be Chicago, falling from the number one spot but holding strong at #2, according to the latest figures from the Texas Transportation Institute. Washington, D.C. gains the crown.

However, Chicagoans still "paid the highest congestion penalty in the U.S. again last year, averaging $1,568 in lost time and wasted fuel for each motorist stuck in heavy traffic."

TTI's annual Urban Mobility Report blames the economy for worsening traffic, as funds are cut or frozen for infrastructure repair

From the report:

"The most economical and effective congestion solutions involve traditional road building and transit use, combined with traffic management strategies such as signal coordination and rapid crash removal, and demand management strategies like telecommuting and flexible work hours. Land use and development patterns can play a positive role, as well."

Full Story: Chicago area falls to No. 2 for worst traffic congestion in U.S., but is still No. 1 for costs to drivers



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Todd Litman's picture

TTI Report Is Based on Biased Assumptions

The Texas Transportation Institute's Urban Mobility Study is based on a number of biased assumptions that tend to exaggerate their congestion cost estimates and the projected benefits of roadway expansion:

• It primarily measures the intensity of congestion. This ignores congestion avoided when travelers shift mode or reduce total vehicle travel. The Travel Time Index even implies that congestion declines if uncongested vehicle travel increases.

• It uses the term "commuter" when it actually means "peak-period motorists," which ignores the congestion avoided by travelers who use alternative modes, such as walking, cycling, public transit and telework.

• It exaggerates congestion cost values by using an unrealistic baseline of freeflow traffic speeds, and excessive values of travel time savings.

• It applies unit costs to personal travel time.

• It assumes that traffic volumes and congestion problems will continue to grow at current rates. But total U.S. vehicle travel has not increased at all since 2003 (see "Dude, Where Are My Cars?" ) due to various demographic and economic trends (aging population, rising fuel prices, improvements to alternative modes, changing consumer preferences, and increased environmental and health concerns).

• It argues that roadway expansion will provide significant economic benefits by reducing traffic congestion. But without efficient pricing, expanding roadways does little to reduce long-term congestion, and increases total transport costs, including consumer costs, parking demand, accidents, energy consumption and pollution emissions. In fact, the economic return on roadway expansion projects has declined during the last few decades, so it is now below the costs of private capital (see "Contribution of Highway Capital to Industry and National Productivity Growth," ).

For more information see:

Joe Cortright (2010), "Driven Apart: How Sprawl is Lengthening Our Commutes and Why Misleading Mobility Measures are Making Things Worse," CEOs for Cities (; at

Todd Litman (2011), "Smart Congestion Relief: Comprehensive Analysis Of Traffic Congestion Costs and Congestion Reduction Benefits," Victoria Transport Policy Institute (; at

Todd Alexander Litman
Victoria Transport Policy Institute
"Efficiency - Equity - Clarity"

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