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Traffic congestion in U.S. remains steady; L.A. area is second-worst

February 06, 2013|By David Colker
  • Traffic congestion has remained steady for the last couple of years, according to a new steady. In Los Angeles and Orange counties, auto commuters spend an average of about 61 hours a year delayed by traffic.
Traffic congestion has remained steady for the last couple of years, according… (AFP/Getty )

Commuter traffic might be a nightmare, but it's not getting worse -- yet.

According to the just-released 2012 Urban Mobility Report out of the Texas A&M Transportation Institute, automobile commuters in urban areas are delayed an average of about 38 hours a year in the U.S. in trying to get to work and other destinations because of traffic congestion.

That average delay, according to the institute, has remained about the same for the last couple of years. Of course, this is not much solace to commuters.

"The statistics do not include meetings you might miss, or having to replace the dashboard or padded steering wheel because of frustration we take out on our cars," said Bill Eisele, a senior research engineer with the institute who co-authored the report.

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The delays in congested areas of Los Angeles and Orange counties were -- no surprise -- far worse than the national average. Those  commuters spent an average of 61 hours per year in traffic congestion. 

That was not the worst among urban areas. That dubious honor went to Washington, D.C., with an average of 67 hours stuck in congestion for the average auto commuter.

The L.A./Orange and San Francisco areas were tied for No. 2, followed by New York, Boston, Houston, Atlanta, Chicago, Philadelphia and Seattle.

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 The 2012 report used statistics gathered in 2011. The institute has been compiling traffic data since 1982. 

Traffic was at its worst about seven years ago, Eisele said, then got somewhat  better. Unfortunately, that was because of the onset of hard economic times -- meaning fewer workers needing to commute.

In 2008, gas prices started skyrocketing, and that also helped ease traffic congestion.  "It's tied to the economy," he said.

Which might not bode well for the future if the economy continues to improve.

"As things pick up with the economy," Eisele said, "the congestion levels will get worse."

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