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Decongestion

Given that things like “same-store traffic” have been dropping, it’s no surprise that vehicular traffic has eased. Via the WSJ:

On average, Americans spent 13 fewer hours stuck in traffic in 2008 than in 2007, according to an annual road traffic report released Wednesday by Inrix. Inrix collects data on road congestion, in part, from a million vehicles equipped with GPS-enabled devices like cellphones and car navigation systems. Inrix cited volatile fuel prices as one reason for the decline in road travel, along with the economy. Some of the findings from the report:

– Riverside, Calif., with the third-highest level of home foreclosure activity last year, saw the highest drop in traffic congestion.

– Detroit, where unemployment rose about 21%, saw the second largest decrease in congestion, tied with San Diego.

– The most dramatic drop in congestion occurred on Wednesdays, with a 31% drop.

– 99 out 100 most populous cities tracked by Inrix saw a decrease in traffic congestion last year from the previous year. The one city where traffic got worse last year: Baton Rouge, which saw a 6% increase in congestion from 2007.

Detroit is obvious, less sure about why Wednesday would see a particularly big drop.

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This entry was posted on Thursday, February 26th, 2009 at 9:13 am and is filed under Congestion. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

3 Responses to “Decongestion”

  1. aaron Says:

    I’m not tracking. What is the WSJ calling a decline in congestion? Are drive times really declining per trip? I really doubt it. I’m in the detroit area, and it certainly isn’t my experience. My commutes seem to be getting longer.

    Congestion probably isn’t less, only that people are driving less. The deline in fuel economy since 2006 suggests the opposite, that we are driving less but people who are driving are wasting more fuel and time.

  2. aaron Says:

    The exception being recent months, since the autoplants shut down, there’s less congestion. But throughout the year, things certaintly haven’t improved much or at all.

  3. aaron Says:

    I haven’t done a thorough reading of the report, but I have done some thinking that may reconcile my experience and analysis of fuel economy with the INRIX report.

    When I look at diesel consumption as well as gasoline, there actually is net improvement in 2008. I think what is happening is that there two traffic flows that exist at the same time.

    The fuel economy decline is smaller when diesel is also included. And it does improve a little in 2008, agreeing with INRIX conclusion. Car traffic may have gotten worse while commercial traffic became more efficent.

    My thinking is that car drivers responded to gas prices by erroneously accelerating and driving slower, this worsened fuel economy for car drivers. Commercial driving habits probably didn’t change much for non-freeway driving. Trucking probably benefitted from decreased congestion and also improved fuel efficiency by driving at lower top speeds on the freeway, while car traffic suffered from decreased throughput at intersections and decreased speeds for non-highway driving (below 55MPH, higher cruising speeds are more efficient).

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Traffic Tom Vanderbilt

How We Drive is the companion blog to Tom Vanderbilt’s New York Times bestselling book, Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do (and What It Says About Us), published by Alfred A. Knopf in the U.S. and Canada, Penguin in the U.K, and in languages other than English by a number of other fine publishers worldwide.

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