L.A. is No. 1 in con­ges­tion,

Av­er­age com­muter lost 104 hours, $2,408 each in time, fuel last year

USA TODAY US Edition - - MONEY - Charisse Jones @charis­se­jones USA TO­DAY

Cheap gas and a surg­ing econ­omy are tax­ing the na­tion’s roads and con­tribut­ing to con­ges­tion that cost U.S. mo­torists al­most $300 bil­lion last year in wasted time and fuel, a new re­port says.

Los An­ge­les had the worst traf­fic in the world among the 1,064 cities stud­ied by trans­porta­tion an­a­lyt­ics firm IN­RIX. The av­er­age driver wasted 104 hours sit­ting in grid­lock dur­ing the busiest com­mut­ing times last year and lost $2,408 each in squan­dered fuel and pro­duc­tiv­ity.

While Moscow had the sec­ond­worst con­ges­tion, New York and San Fran­cisco weren’t far be­hind. New York mo­torists spent 89 hours on av­er­age in traf­fic dur­ing peak pe­ri­ods last year. The av­er­age San Fran­cisco driver cooled their heels be­hind the wheel 83 hours on av­er­age in 2016.

“Gas prices haven’t in­creased that much over the last year or two,’’ says Bob Pishue, se­nior econ­o­mist at IN­RIX and a co-au­thor of the traf­fic score­card. Eco­nomic growth or pro­duc­tiv­ity has also been strong in cities such as San Fran­cisco, Los An­ge­les and New York. “Those kinds of fac­tors, com­bined with an al­ready strained road net­work,leads to in­creased con­ges­tion.’’

Even if the grow­ing pop­u­lar­ity of ride-share ser­vices such as Uber re­verses the na­tion’s decades­long de­cline in car pool­ing, the in­creas­ing amount of freight on the na­tion’s road­ways will still stoke grid­lock.

“With an eco­nomic re­cov­ery ... the move­ment of goods also puts a lot of strain on the roads,” Pishue says. “So even if peo­ple re­duce their driv­ing a lit­tle bit, freight is still in­creas­ing.”

Pishue says the study used fed­eral met­rics for the value of lost time and fuel, along with the en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pact of car­bon emis­sions to cal­cu­late bot­tom­line costs to driv­ers and mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties from mo­torists idling in traf­fic.

Get­ting stalled on New York’s crowded streets, for in­stance, cost driv­ers $2,533 each last year, and the city as a whole nearly $17 bil­lion. Lost pro­duc­tiv­ity and fuel cost San Fran­cisco driv­ers $1,996 and the city more than $2.5 bil­lion in 2016.

When freight car­ri­ers lose time and money in traf­fic, 90% of those costs “get pushed onto house­holds through higher prices for goods and ser­vices” Pishue says.

Some of the most con­gested mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties are tak­ing steps to get traf­fic mov­ing, the re­port says. Los An­ge­les vot­ers ap­proved Mea­sure M in Novem­ber, a sweep­ing $120 bil­lion plan aimed at up­dat­ing tran­sit in­fra­struc­ture rang­ing from bike lanes to high­ways. San Fran­cisco’s Smart I-80 cor­ri­dor, which opened in Septem­ber, could be help­ing to keep traf­fic from wors­en­ing. And New York City is con­tin­u­ing to fo­cus on ex­pand­ing the new 2nd Av­enue sub­way line, which is ex­pected to ul­ti­mately ferry more than 200,000 com­muters a day.

“Those kinds of unique city chal­lenges rely on big data, tech­nol­ogy, (and) con­nec­tiv­ity,” Pishue says. “That’s where these so­lu­tions lie, not nec­es­sar­ily in adding a lane to a big high­way or build­ing a big park­ing garage.”

MARK RALSTON, AFP/GETTY IMAGES

RICHARD VOGEL, AP

Los An­ge­les vot­ers ap­proved Mea­sure M in Novem­ber, a $120 bil­lion plan aimed at up­dat­ing tran­sit in­fra­struc­ture.

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