Commuting Waste Quantified

Portland, Oregon comes out well on a recent study of transportation in the U.S.:
Without mass transit, the average Portland area commuter would spend five hours more a year in rush-hour congestion, costing the region $98 million a year in lost time and wasted fuel, the Texas study says.
The Texas study is the Urban Mobility Report 2009 from the Texas Transportation Institute. It quantifies what we lose from commuting:
  • The overall cost (based on wasted fuel and lost productivity) reached $87.2 billion in 2007 — more than $750 for every U.S. traveler.
  • The total amount of wasted fuel topped 2.8 billion gallons — three weeks’ worth of gas for every traveler.
  • The amount of wasted time totaled 4.2 billion hours — nearly one full work week (or vacation week) for every traveler.
The study recommends strategies for dealing with it:
  • Get as much use as possible out of the transportation system we have.
  • Add roadway and public transportation capacity in the places where it is needed most.
  • Change our patterns, employing ideas like ridesharing and flexible work times to avoid traditional “rush hours.”
  • Provide more choices, such as alternate routes, telecommuting and toll lanes for faster and more reliable trips.
  • Diversify land development patterns, to make walking, biking and mass transit more practical.
  • Adopt realistic expectations, recognizing for instance that large urban areas are going to be congested, but they don’t have to stay that way all day long.
Fortunately, Lowndes County is not a large urban area, so it doesn’t have to be congested. Note that none of the recommendations include “just build more roads.” Two of them involve public transportation. And land development patterns that include services next to subdivisions could help a lot. I attended a recent Valdosta City Council meeting in which inhabitants of one subdivision were bitterly complaining because the developers wanted to put a few stores on a lot next to the subdivision. Maybe as the price of gas goes back up they’ll discover the attraction of walking to the store to get eggs and milk….