Did Your Traffic Improve Last Year?

According to a new study out this week by research group INRIX, urban traffic congestion in the U.S. plummeted last year by 30 percent over the previous year. Angie Schmitt summarizes the surprising findings, and investigates what the cause may be.

Released this week, INRIX's Annual Traffic Scorecard analyzed congestion on highways in America's 100 largest cities and found that 70 metropolitan areas saw declines in their traffic congestion in the past year. "In addition to high gas prices and poor economic performance, INRIX attributed vanishing congestion in part to a decline in road construction brought on by the completion of most stimulus projects, as well as uncertainty around federal infrastructure funding and anemic local and state budgets," notes Schmitt, who raises some additional questions about the true causes for the decline.

"National declines in driving or increases in transit ridership were not mentioned as contributing factors. Still, it's somewhat mysterious. Was the economy really so much worse in 2011 than 2010? Growth did slow down some in that time, but it was still positive. Or is something else going on here - like the 'decoupling' of driving from economic fluctuations?"

INRIX's study provides a lot to chew on. In addition to the nationwide statistics, the scorecard also ranked the individual U.S. cities with the worst traffic congestion, the most congested corridors, and the best and worst times to commute.

Summarizing the results in The Atlantic Cities, Tyler Falk reports that Honolulu has won the dubious prize of most congested city. "INRIX changed their methodology this year look [sic] at travel time for individuals rather than overall congestion, which rocketed Honolulu to the top of the list (from 37th last year)." Los Angeles and San Francisco rounded out the top three. 

Full Story: Analysts: Traffic Congestion Down 30 Percent Last Year

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