Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Is Traffic Actually Getting Less Congested?

The answer is yes, at least according to a report by the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments (pdf file).

As Chris Jenkins reported today on, "It might not seem like it when you're inching through crushing bottlenecks during your daily commute, but traffic congestion in the Washington region appears to have loosened up.

"A worsening economy, combined with record-high gas prices last spring, made the big difference, according to a study to be released today by the Metropolitan Council of Governments.

"COG did a traffic count using aerial photos taken over three days last spring. Traffic had dropped 3.1 percent from 2005, including a sharp reduction in congestion in several choke points in the area. It was the first time the number of miles traveled declined in the 15 years the study has been conducted.

"Even more striking than the decrease in vehicle miles traveled was the drop in the amount of congestion measured during the morning and afternoon rushes. The report found congestion during those three-hour peak travel times declined 24 percent, to levels not seen since 2002."

According to the Council of Government's Web site, the most congested freeway choke points in the region in 2008 were:
  • Southbound I-395 (5:30 to 6:30 p.m.) from 4th St. to U.S. Route 1*
  • Westbound 11th St. Bridge (8:00 to 9:00 a.m.) from I-295 to Southeast Freeway
  • Northbound I-395 (4:30 to 6:30 p.m.) from 11th St. to Pennsylvania Ave
  • Outer Loop I-495 (8:00 to 9:00 a.m.) from New Hampshire Ave. to U.S. 29*
  • There was a six-way tie for fifth

*Indicates that these locations experienced an increase in congestion from 2005. Read more about the survey.

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