A recent U.S. News & World Report cover story has a sub-headline which reads in part:
“Tie-ups. Backups. Gridlock. The American commute has never been so painful.”
The status of the City of Angels as a commuting hell is nothing new. But by 2030, according to some estimates, driving in Atlanta, Minneapolis, and nine other urban areas will be worse than present-day Los Angeles. Nationwide, more and more people will see their roads clogged for longer periods of time.
..More people are on the roads, and traffic has grown dramatically worse. Americans spent 3.7 billion hours in traffic in 2003, the last year for which such figures are available – more than a fivefold increase from just 21 years earlier. The amount of free-flowing travel is less than half what it was in the ’80s and the average commuter now loses 47 hours to congested traffic every year.
America has about 70 million more people than it did a quarter century ago, but highway miles have increased by a little more than 5 percent in that time. The Department of Transportation estimates that the demand for ground transportation … will be 2.5 times as great by 2050, while highway capacity is projected to increase by only 10 percent during that time.
The economy has driven car ownership to new heights; the average household now has slightly more cars, 1.9, than drivers, 1.8. Property values and restrictive zoning in many areas have made finding quality housing near one’s workplace virtually impossible for many, and the quest for affordable housing has sent people to ever more distant locales.