Every day, my commute home takes me over the Hall Street overpass where, from the comfort (or, more accurately, mild discomfort) of my bike seat, I gaze down at the parking lot that is Central Expressway at rush hour and wonder with a mix of empathy and mild condescension what all those poor souls are doing while their trapped in their metal boxes.
For one, they're wasting a lot of time, money, and gas. Sitting in traffic in Dallas-Fort Worth costs the average car commuter nearly $1,000, eats up 45 hours, and burns 20 gallons of fuel each year, according to the annual Urban Mobility Report released overnight by Texas A&M's Texas Transportation Institute.
Those numbers add up. In the DFW area alone, congestion cost drivers $3.6 billion in extra fuel costs and wasted time (your time, according to TTI, is worth $16.79 per hour) and pumps 1.5 billion pounds of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. This puts Dallas sixth in the nation in terms of congestion costs, about where it's ranked for the past several years.
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The data show the problem has gotten moderately better in recent years. Though traffic's cost in Dallas has doubled over the past decade and more than quintupled over the past two, that's largely the result of population growth. Per capita, congestion time and costs peaked in 2006 at $1,414. But the cost remains high, and there's no precipitous drop in traffic looming on the horizon.
So what does TTI suggest we do to ease traffic? It depends, but researchers recommend "a multi-faceted approach should be used, relying on more efficient traffic management and public transportation in addition to new construction. Travel options such as flexible work hours and telecommuting should also be part of the mix."
Another solution: riding a bike.