Houston among urban areas where commuters endure most extra hours

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Wednesday, August 26, 2015
Houston traffic among some of the costliest in the country
A new study just released today shows how many extra hours you spend on the road each year, how much extra fuel you use, and how much money it costs you in the end.

HOUSTON (KTRK) -- If you feel like traffic in Houston is getting worse, you're officially correct.

A new study just released today shows how many extra hours you spend on the road each year, how much extra fuel you use, and how much money it costs you in the end.

Traffic congestion nationally reached a new peak last year and is greater than ever before, according to a report by the Texas A&M Transportation Institute and INRIX Inc.

Their analysis is based on federal data on the number of cars on the road and on traffic speed data collected by INRIX on 1.3 million miles of urban streets and highways.

The following are urban areas ranked by the average annual extra hours commuters spend in their cars due to delay, together with the cost in lost time and fuel.

1. Washington, D.C.-Virginia-Maryland, 82 hours, $1,834

2. Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, 80 hours, $1,711

3. San Francisco-Oakland, 78 hours, $1,675

4. New York-Newark, New Jersey-Connecticut, 74 hours, $1,739

5. San Jose, California, 67 hours, $1,422

6. Boston-New Hampshire-Rhode Island, 64 hours, $1,388

7. Seattle, 63 hours, $1,491

8. Chicago-Indiana, 61 hours, $1,445

8. Houston, 61 hours, $1,490

10. Riverside-San Bernardino, California, 59 hours, $1,316

11. Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington, 53 hours, $1,185

12. Atlanta, 52 hours,$1,130

12. Detroit, 52 hours, $1,183

12. Miami, 52 hours, $1,169

12. Austin, Texas, 52 hours, $1,159

12. Portland, Oregon, 52 hours, $1,273

17. Phoenix-Mesa, 51 hours, $1,201

18. Honolulu, 50 hours, $1,125

19. Bridgeport-Stamford, Connecticut, 49 hours, $1,174

19. Denver-Aurora, 49 hours, $1,101

19. Oklahoma City, 49 hours, $1,110

22. Philadelphia, 48 hours, $1,112

23. Baton Rouge, Louisiana, 47 hours, $1,262

23. Tucson, Arizona, 47 hours, $1,128

23. Baltimore, 47 hours, $1,115

23. Minneapolis-St. Paul, 47 hours, $1,035

Houstonians spend 61 extra hours in the car each year because of gridlock on the road. That's about a week and a half of vacation time for a full-time employee. We rank eighth in the nation in wasted time, tied with Chicago.

Houstonian Kimberly Smith said, "That's crazy. You can get 60 hours college credits, but 60 hours just sitting, idling? Oh, wow!"

How much extra gas do you have to buy each year because of traffic? That would be 29 gallons!

And how much money does congestion cost the average commuter? The study says $1,490 flies out of your wallet -- the 6th highest amount among the cities studied.

So what does it all mean?

Alan Clark, director of Transportation Planning for the Houston Galveston Area Council, explained, "The numbers are a barometer of what's happening all around us. So, as our region is growing and prospering, we're seeing more and more people going to work, going to school, trucks and trains delivering goods to our region and our country. So, this is a sign of a healthy, robust economy."

But more importantly, what's the city doing to make it better?

"We are trying to grow the transportation roadways and services to get people where they're going, but we're unable to do that as rapidly as our region is growing," Clark said. "A good example is the city of Houston, where they're looking to make sure that people are delayed as little as possible at a signalized intersection. We're working on making sure that people who break down on a freeway get off that freeway quickly and safely."

The bad news is things haven't gotten better in these categories, according to the study, at least not in the past five years. It's actually gotten worse according to these numbers. And that affects all of us, whether you commute to work or not.

Smith said, "You probably sit in more traffic than you do at the dinner table."

Fellow Houstonian Jihad Ali said, "The traffic out here is crazy. Ludicrous. Absurd."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.