Commuters in St. Louis and Kansas City spend around 30 hours per year waiting in traffic, according to a new study.
The 2012 Annual Urban Mobility Report, released Tuesday by Texas A&M University, details driving patterns for 101 urban areas nationwide using 30 years of trend data. Included in the report are St. Louis and Kansas City, which rank 65th and 52nd, respectively, on the list in terms of yearly delay per commuter.
The average commuter in Kansas City wasted 27 hours in traffic in 2011, an increase of 22 hours since 1982. That same year, St. Louis commuters wasted, on average, 31 hours, an increase of 20 hours since 1982.
Nationwide, the financial cost of traffic congestion for 2011 was $121 billion, or $818 per commuter. The most effective way to address the problem varies from city to city, but researchers agree that a multi-faceted approach is necessary.
The report suggests that traffic congestion in the two Missouri metro areas could be solved by improved highway incident management, better traffic signal coordination on large streets and improved access management of major roads. Improvements in these areas could lead to savings of more than $30 million in each city in fuel and other costs.
Drivers work around anticipated congestion by leaving earlier than necessary to make sure they arrive on time. The report states that at peak times of congestion, highway journeys in both cities take around 1.13 times as long as they would in light traffic, so what’s normally a 30-minute drive on the highway will likely take 34 minutes.
If a commuter wants to ensure he or she is almost always on time, the report states that St. Louis and Kansas City drivers should give themselves 80 minutes for an expected 30-minute commute.
“We all understand that trips take longer in rush hour, but for really important appointments, we have to allow increasingly more time to ensure an on-time arrival,” the report’s co-author, Bill Eisele, said in a news release. “As bad as traffic jams are, it’s even more frustrating that you can’t depend on traffic jams being consistent from day-to-day. This unreliable travel is costly for commuters and truck drivers moving goods.”
The report found the nation’s five most congested metro areas to be Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, San Francisco-Oakland, New York City-Newark and Boston.
In addition to the financial costs and delays for drivers, traffic congestion causes an extra 56 billion pounds of carbon dioxide emissions per year, the report states.
“Including CO2 emissions into the [report] provides another dimension to the urban congestion problem,” researcher and co-author David Schrank said in the release. “It points to the importance of implementing transportation improvements to reduce congestion.”