As D.C. Commute Traffic Worsens, Congestion Costs Reach $300 Billion

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    No one likes to deal with a long morning commute. In fact, 14% of drivers have changed jobs just to shorten theirs. But for those who work a conventional 9-to-5, rush hour traffic is just a fact of life. That’s especially true in a heavily populated metropolis like Washington, D.C., where you may feel like your commute seems worse than ever before. If that sounds familiar, there’s a good reason: your commute is worse than ever before.

    Around 86% of U.S. workers commuted by car in 2013, but driving has been on the decline here in the nation’s capital. However, the amount of time commuters spend in their cars on the way to work has actually increased. For most D.C. area locations, commutes take anywhere from 26 to 36 minutes, although others may take longer. In most of the Washington, D.C. area, commutes have gone up only by a few minutes over the past few years; however, those extra minutes can really add up.

    But since both the number of drivers and the length of distance traveled on commuting routes has decreased, the fact that commute times have increased is a bit puzzling. There’s been an uptick in people taking public transit in some areas, and another possibility relates to the time people leave their homes to go to work each day. However, there’s a much simpler explanation for the inflated commute: congestion.

    A lot of drivers are able to avoid the commuting nightmare entirely by working from home. While less than 6% of workers report that they currently work from home rather than going into an office, the increasing popularity of telecommuting should have theoretically made some sort of dent in average commute times. Instead, workers in the D.C. area are seeing longer commutes and more intense gridlock.

    Increased traffic congestion is a problem nationwide, and it has a hefty price tag, too. According to the Global Traffic Scorecard from INIX, traffic congestion costs U.S. motorists $1,200 a year, on average. While Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, Atlanta, and Miami are considered to be worse locations for commuters, D.C. is still one of the top 10 most congested cities in the country.

    Bob Pishue, senior economist at INRIX, explained, “A stable U.S. economy, continued urbanization of major cities…employment growth and low gas prices have all contributed to increased traffic in 2016. Congestion also costs our country hundreds of billions of dollars, threatens future economic growth, and lowers our quality of life.”

    All told, indirect and direct congestion costs amounted to $300 billion last year.

    In order to reduce these costs, improvements will have to be made to existing roadways. Technology must also be utilized to help drivers reach their destinations more quickly.

    Congested streets can lead to anything from increased stress levels to more traffic accidents, so it’s within everyone’s best interest for experts to find ways to shorten daily commutes. Until then, be sure to leave yourself plenty of travel time and try not to honk too much en route.

    We’ll all get there eventually.

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