Is Traffic Congestion Good or Bad?

No one likes to be stuck in traffic. But while empty streets may look great from behind the wheel of a car, they could signal a city in distress. A new study identifies the tipping point at which congestion becomes a drag on a city's economy.
October 22, 2013, 11am PDT | Jonathan Nettler | @nettsj
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While the United States spends ample time ranking and analyzing the costs of congestion, "many of the American cities with the worst congestion also have the largest economies," notes Emily Badger. "And, to a certain extent, congestion is a sign that an awful lot of people have jobs to get to, which is indisputably a good thing." 

In a paper recently published online by the journal Urban StudiesMatthias Sweet, a researcher at the McMaster Institute for Transportation and Logistics at McMaster University goes beyond the typical congestion analysis to examine "some of the larger, second-order costs in regional job growth and productivity." 

"His results, which are a bit counter-intuitive, suggest that higher levels of congestion are initially associated with faster economic growth," writes Badger. "But, above a certain threshold, congestion starts to become a drag on growth."

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Published on Tuesday, October 22, 2013 in The Atlantic Cities
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