Thursday, February 7, 2013

As Traffic Worsens, Commuters Allowing Extra Time for Urgent Trips

As traffic congestion continues to worsen, the time required for a given trip becomes more unpredictable, and researchers now have a way to measure that degree of unreliability, introduced for the first time as part of the annual Urban Mobility Report (UMR), published by the Texas A&M Transportation Institute (TTI).

The Planning Time Index (PTI), a measure of travel reliability, illustrates the amount of extra time needed to arrive on time for higher priority events, such as an airline departure, just-in-time shipments, medical appointments or especially important social commitments.

If the PTI for a particular trip is 3.00, a traveler would allow 60 minutes for a trip that typically takes 20 minutes when few cars are on the road. Allowing for a PTI of 3.00 would ensure on-time arrival 19 out of 20 times.

According to an AP story on, "The new report from the Texas A&M Transportation Institute found that Americans wasted an average of $818 each sitting in traffic in 2011. That also meant more carbon dioxide entering the atmosphere."

The worst commute in the country? Washington. Commuters in the nation's capital needed almost three hours for a trip that should take 30 minutes without traffic, according to the report. That compares to the least congested city -- Pensacola, Fla. -- where commuters needed only nine extra minutes.

The report also noted that fuel wasted in congested traffic reached a total of 2.9 billion gallons – enough to fill the New Orleans Superdome four times. That’s the same as 2010, but short of the 3.2 billion gallons wasted in 2005.

According to a Washington Post article, the Institute provided a plan for addressing congestion that applies to the Washington region and the rest of the nation. It was a collection of ideas, many of which are already in use.

It included addressing immediate traffic problems — such as having tow trucks poised to sweep away wrecks and stalled vehicles, and using metered freeway on ramps to modulate traffic flow — and obvious goals of increasing capacity, encouraging transit use and embracing flexible work schedules.

Read more about the report.

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