Mar 4 2014, 1:46pm CST | by Forbes
This past winter has certainly been unkind to motorists. The elements conspired to confine commuters to their cars for hours at a time as they suffered what were among the worst climactic outbursts to hit the nation in decades. Worse, such monumental morass only tends to exacerbate what is already crippling congestion in the U.S. According to the annual Traffic Scorecard compiled by the traffic information and driver services provider INRIX in Kirkland, WA, the average driver living in any of the 10 most gridlocked cities in the U.S. wasted an average 47 hours – more than the typical work week – sitting in traffic last year.
These include no less than three metro areas in California, which garners the dubious honor of being the worst state for commuters in the country. Los Angeles topped the charts in 2013, with car lovers in the City of Angels spending 64 additional hours behind the wheel than would otherwise be necessary if the freeways were in fact moving freely. What’s more, motorists passing through the L.A. corridor tend to experience longer backups than drivers in the most log-jammed cities in the U.K., France, Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands. We’re featuring INRIX’s list of the 10 most congested U.S. cities, including their aggregate average traffic delays, in the accompanying slide show.
This is the proverbial good news/bad news situation, with higher employment rates and an otherwise recovering economy placing additional cars and trucks on the nation’s highways, but at the unfortunate expense of increased travel times. Congestion thickened in 61 metro areas in the U.S. last year, rising by an average six percent overall. “While bad news for drivers, the gains we’ve seen in the U.S. in 2013 are cause for optimism about the direction of the economy,” says Bryan Mistele, INRIX president and chief executive officer. Indeed, if the economy continues its upward trend during 2014 as expected, INRIX predicts already beleaguered drivers will squander even more time creeping along on the nation’s highways.
To be sure, the U.S. cities with the worst traffic last year saw robust growth in employment, like #4 Austin, TX at 2.8%, #7 San Jose, CA at 3.4%, #8 Seattle at 2.6% and #9 Boston at 2.1%. Not coincidentally, these areas also saw their populations swell as additional workers relocated to help fill the additional jobs, with Austin topping the list at a 6.6 percent increase. Otherwise, the usual big-city suspects complete the 2013 worst-traffic list, including Honolulu, San Francisco New York City, Washington D.C. and Bridgeport, CT.
Don’t expect traffic to get any better down the road, either. The United Nations predicts that 70 percent of the world’s population will live in urban centers by 2050, which is up from about 50 percent today. That means we’ll see more cars on the road in the years to come—a lot more. Ford estimates the number of autos on the world’s thoroughfares will rise from around a billion today to as many as 4 billion by 2050. World-class traffic tie-ups like the 2-3 hour daily commutes currently seen in San Paulo, Brazil could be manifest destiny both here in the U.S. and elsewhere around the world.
Unfortunately, the solution to the world’s gridlock is not likely to be found at the end of a bulldozer. “It’s too late to build our way out of congestion – we’ve learned there is no such thing as ‘shovel ready projects’,” says INRIX’s Mistele. “Optimizing road networks through better technology and data analytics will be the only way to relieve congestion as the economy recovers in the near term.”
For its part, the flexible workspace provider Regus, headquartered in Luxembourg, predicts that the coming generation of self-driving cars could at least help professionals recover the otherwise lost time spent in a grueling commute by acting as rolling offices. The company recently teamed with Swiss automotive systems innovator Rinspeed to develop the XchangE concept car, which is being introduced at this year’s Geneva Motor Show. Here, the front two seats can swivel backwards to create a mobile work and meeting space for up to four people, with a sophisticated infotainment system keeping gridlock bound commuters connected and industrious.
“A consultant or sales rep could fit in 7-8 hours of productive work each day, using a driverless vehicle,” says Andre Sharpe, Regus’ global product and business development director. “This innovative car will change wasted time into productive time.”
As if most of us didn’t already spend enough time working at the office.
Source: Forbes Auto
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