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The American Commuter Spends 38 Hours a Year Stuck in Traffic

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Few people would choose to spend the equivalent of a week at work stuck in traffic every year, but that's exactly what the average American commuter experiences, according to Texas A&M's annual mobility study. In a review of 2011 traffic patterns, researchers concluded that, "congestion caused urban Americans to travel 5.5 billion hours more and to purchase an extra 2.9 billion gallons of fuel." This adds up to 56 billion unnecessary pounds of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere by idling commuters. 

The cost of all of this wasted time (38 hours per commuter each year) and fuel comes out to $121 billion annually. That brings the cost for the average commuter to $818 (see graph to left).

America's most congested city is Washington, D.C., with the average commuter spending a whopping 67 hours stuck in traffic each year. Perhaps not surprisingly, Los Angeles came in second, with commuters averaging 61 hours a year stuck in traffic. San Francisco, Boston and New York round up the top five most-congested cities. On a practical level, in order to be on time in these dense cities, commuters had to allow an hour for a trip that would take just 20 minutes in light traffic.

If there is a silver lining, it's that the average time wasted in traffic has declined since its peak in 2005, when the average Americans spent 43 hours a year stuck in traffic. But in the last two decades, however, total lost work hours have nearly quadrupled. Today's congestion bill of $121 billion dwarfs the GDP of all but 60 of the countries in the world. 

Read more at The Atlantic.

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