The Texas Transportation Institute has issued its annual report on congestion in American cities. As usual, Austin doesn't do well, punching well above its class. Tthe average Austin traveler experienced an annual delay of 39 hours in 2007. That's up from 32 hours in 1997, although no worse than 2006.
Ryan Avent puts the Austin figures in perspective:
The average traveler in the New York metro area faces 44 hours wasted per year, for instance, while the average traveler in Los Angeles loses 70 hours per year to congestion, even though New York’s metropolitan population is much, much larger than LA’s. More interesting still, Austin and Raleigh aren’t that far behind New York with 39 and 34 hours wasted annually, despite the fact that both metro areas have less than two million people while greater New York is home to 20 million people.
TTI also calculates the percent of peak period travel that is congested. Austin again fares poorly -- its roads are congested for 70% of the peak travel period:
By comparison, Dallas's roads are congested for only 66% of the peak travel period. Houston is marginally worse at 73%. Austin's peers include New York (69%), Detroit (71%) and Baltimore (69%).
One has to wonder what damage Austin's congestion has wrought to downtown. Businesses want to locate where their employees can get to them, and high peak-period congestion means that commuters must fight traffic to get to work most of the time. I suspect Austin's downtown suffers more heavily from peak-period congestion than any other employment center in the area since MoPac and I-35 -- downtown's principal commuter routes -- are the two most congested roads in the area. Eventually we must recognize that our congestion will stunt downtown's growth, if it hasn't already. We wil lose the economies of scale and agglomeration benefits that a vibrant downtown would yield.
You know, of course, that there is only one solution.