SAN ANTONIO (Texas News Radio) — Texans living in the state’s large metropolitan areas are wasting dozens of hours a year stuck in traffic.

But many drivers in some of Texas’ smaller metropolitan areas also see some notable congestion.

The Texas A&M Transportation Institute said congestion is costing the average commuter $1,010 nationally every year and the entire economy $166 billion a year.

“No single approach will ever solve this complex problem,” says Tim Lomax, a report author and Regents Fellow at TTI. “We know what works. What the country needs is a robust, information-powered conversation at the local, state and national levels about what steps should be taken. We have many strategies; we have to figure out the right solution for each problem and a way to pay for them.”

The institute has been gathering gridlock data since 1982.  Since that time, the number of hours lost because of congestion has triple, the cost per commuter has nearly double, the nationwide cost of congestion has grown more than tenfold, and fuel wasted in traffic has more than tripled.

“The value of investing in our nation’s transportation infrastructure in a strategic and effective manner cannot be overstated as these added costs impact our national productivity, quality of life, economic efficiency and global competitiveness,” said Marc Williams, deputy executive director of the Texas Department of Transportation, which funded the TTI research. The 2008–2009 recession produced only a brief pause in traffic congestion growth, which bounced back at an even quicker pace than associated job recovery.

“The problem affects not only commuters, but also manufacturers and shippers whose travel delay costs are passed on to consumers,” says Bill Eisele, a report author and TTI senior research engineer. “While trucks constitute only 7 percent of road traffic, they account for 12 percent of congestion cost.”

In Texas, Houston and Austin are among the worst in the state for congestion on a variety of factors.

In terms of hours wasted in traffic per person, Houston is the worst in the state, ranking 9th worst nationally.  Dallas-Fort Worth and Austin both feel a similar amount of pain to each other, ranking 13th and 14th nationally.  San Antonio was significantly better and was the only Texas large metro area to be below the national average, ranking 34th.

Los Angeles was by far the worst in the country, with the average commuter there wasting 119 hours a year in congestion.  San Francisco and Washington, DC, were right behind as the only other urban areas with the average commuter wasting over 100 hours a year in congestion.

In terms of how much worse rush hour is compared to any other time of day, both Austin and Houston were the worst in Texas.

When it came to how reliably you could predict how long your drive in the urban area would take, Austin was by far the worst in Texas and 11th worst in the country.  Houston was 19th worst, Dallas-Fort Worth was 26th and San Antonio 28th worst in the country.

In terms of financial cost to your wallet, the average commuter in Houston loses nearly $1,400 per year because of congestion — among the 10 worst in the country.  Austin drivers lose nearly $1,300 a year and Dallas-Fort Worth commuters lose nearly $1,200, putting both among the 20 worst.  That compares with San Antonio commuters, who lose $880 on average per year because of congestion, 38th worst in the country.

Annual Delay per Commuter

(Rank among 101 urban areas measured, unranked note smaller urban areas.  Parentheses note total hours per commuter per year)

9. Houston (75)
13. Dallas-Fort Worth (67)
14. Austin (66)
34. San Antonio (51)
70. Beaumont (41)
70. El Paso (41)
80. Corpus Christi (38)
80. McAllen (38)
93. Laredo (32)
College Station (32)
Odessa (31)
Tyler (31)
Denton (30)
96. Brownsville (29)
Conroe (29)
Longview (29)
Victoria (29)
Temple (25)
Port Arthur (23)
Midland (22)
Amarillo (20)
Lake Jackson (19)
Lubbock (19)
McKinney (19)
Texarkana (19)
San Angelo (18)
Waco (18)
Abilene (17)
Texas City (17)
Killeen (14)
San Marcos (14)
Galveston (13)
Wichita Falls (13)
Sherman (12)
Harlingen (11)

Travel Time Index

This index show how much longer a trip during a peak travel time is compared to when there is no congestion on the roadway.  Effectively, this index shows how much worse rush hour traffic makes getting around town.

(Rank among 101 urban areas measured.  Parentheses note index. A 1.30 indicates a 20 minute free flow trip takes 26 minutes during a peak travel time)

11. Austin (1.34)
11. Houston (1.34)
23. Dallas-Fort Worth (1.26)
30. San Antonio (1.23)
49. Laredo (1.17)
61. McAllen (1.16)
61. El Paso (1.16)
83. Beaumont (1.13)
83. Brownsville (1.13)
83. Corpus Christi (1.13)

Freeway Planning Time Index

A travel time reliability measure that represents the total travel time that should be planned for a trip. Computed with the 95th percentile travel time it represents the amount of time that should be planned for a commute trip to be late for only 1 day a month. If it is computed with the 80th percentile travel time it represents the amount of time that should be planned for a trip to be late for only 1 day a week. A PTI of 2.00 means that for a 20-minute trip in light traffic, 40 minutes should be planned.

(Rank among 101 urban areas measured.  Parentheses note index.)

11. Austin (2.15)
19. Houston (1.92)
26. Dallas-Fort Worth (1.79)
28. San Antonio (1.74)
52. Laredo (1.43)
64. El Paso (1.35)
66. McAllen (1.33)
84. Beaumont (1.25)
95. Corpus Christi (1.16)
96. Brownsville (1.12)

Congestion Cost

This is the cost of sitting in traffic, based on $18.29 per hour per person and fuel consumption based on the state average cost of fuel.

Total cost

7. Houston ($4.5 billion)
9. Dallas-Fort Worth ($4.1 billion)
26. San Antonio ($1.3 billion)
28. Austin ($1.2 billion)
58. El Paso ($418 million)
64. McAllen ($350 million)
88. Corpus Christi ($175 million)
92. Beaumont ($156 million)
97. Laredo ($117 million)
100. Brownsville ($85 million)

Cost per commuter

10. Houston ($1,376)
13. Austin ($1,269)
18. Dallas-Fort Worth ($1,161)
38. San Antonio ($880)
58. El Paso ($724)
69. Corpus Christi ($681)
76. Beaumont ($656)
81. McAllen ($640)
94. Laredo ($542)
95. Brownsville ($520)

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