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Some Relief on U.S. Congestion

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(Editor’s note:  As Virginia plans for future road construction, expansion and possible High Occupancy Toll lanes, this article is important to that discussion.)
Big-data firm INRIX last month released its 2017 Global Traffic Scorecard. It reports data on the extent of traffic congestion in 1,360 metro areas worldwide. Of the world’s 10 most-congested metro areas, five are in the United States. The non-U.S. members of that elite group are Moscow (2nd most-congested), Sao Paulo (4th), Bogota (6th), London (7th), and Paris (10th).
When I reviewed the 13 U.S. metro areas that made the INRIX top 45 most-congested, some very interesting patterns emerged. Here is my summary of the data.

The extent of pricing is my subjective assessment of the fraction of limited-access facilities that are either toll roads or variably priced managed lanes. When I used the percentage of peak period that is congested, I found that the average for those in metro areas rated high on pricing was 12.3%; for those rated medium, the average was 18.8%; and for those rated low (or none), the average was 23.4%.
The other point that leaps out of the table is the change in rank of Dallas and Houston, both of which moved significantly lower in the league table of most-congested metro areas. Both have a growing fraction of their expressways that are tollways, and both have expanding networks of variably priced managed lanes. Also striking is that Portland, with just one-third the population of Dallas, has nearly the same average congested hours per commuter and has nearly double the percentage of peak period hours that are congested. Perhaps this explains why Portland is on the verge of a decision to implement pricing on several of its freeways.
(This article first ran in the October 2018 issue of Surface Transportation Innovations.)
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