Car transit wastes $115 Billion per year in USA

NPR reported today on the time and money wasted by Americans stuck in traffic – $115 billion. $115 billion in extra productivity could go towards paying for a renewed public transit system in the USA. One local paper in Florida reports that their public transit system saves 129,000 hours per year in traffic congestion. Not to mention the improvement in quality of life from less car accidents, people killed and maimed, air pollution spreading diseases, etc.


Using real-time data to calculate commuter mileage, speed and distance traveled over time, the institute estimated traffic tie-ups cost about $115 billion in 2009. The study released Thursday cites factors such as wasted fuel, lost work hours and delays in shipping goods.

Commuters in Chicago and Washington suffered the most, losing 70 hours a year to traffic delays. Nationally, the average commuter wasted 34 hours in traffic in 2009 ? up from 14 hours in 1982, the first year for which researchers have records.

LeeTran officials we spoke to say public transportation is another way to reach your destination and stay out of excessive traffic.


“If no public transportation existed in Lee County, people would waste an additional 129,000 hours a year in traffic congestion,”

Funnily enough Chicago and Washington both have robust (for the U.S) public transit.

Wow, that’s a lot of wasted time. 129,000 hours a year! I only get 8,760 hours in my year.

That stat was just for one county in Florida btw (forgot to post that). It probably means time saved by commuters

News flash: people on public transit “waste” time, too.

Hey, I’m all for more public transit and fewer cars, but the real issue is that Americans love their cars. Nothing short of nuclear war is going to significantly decrease the number of cars in this country. Quoting the number of hours “wasted” in traffic certainly isn’t.

Let’s look at the counter argument. Public transportation does not serve my needs well. I can make it to work in 15 min. driving. It takes 45 minutes to get 1.5 miles away from my place of employment with buses and transfers. Sure I could walk the 1.5 miles, but if it is bad weather say I call a cab. I do ride my bicycle in good weather. It is unlike Europe, where the country of Germany is well serviced by public transportation, yet Germany is the size of Illinois. Can you understand the scope of the challenge to make public transportation viable.

My experience has been very similar.

I can recall that driving from my first apartment to my first job took about 15-20 minutes by car. By contrast, if I wanted to make the same commute by public transit, I would have to wait on a nearby corner for 10-15 minutes for a bus (you never knew if it was running late, and if so–how late it was running).

I would ride on bus #1 for about 15 minutes, until I would have to get off in order to wait for bus #2, which traveled on a route perpendicular to the route of bus #1. If I was lucky, bus #2 would arrive in 5 minutes or so. If I was very unlucky, I had already missed bus #2, and would have to wait an additional 40 minutes or so for another bus #2. Then, I could ride bus #2 for about 10 minutes, get off, cross an extremely busy street with no crosswalks or traffic signals, and walk about 12 minutes–on a street with no sidewalks–to my job.

The above scenario could take anywhere from 35 minutes to about 1.5 hours–to go a distance of no more than 10 miles. During the winter, or when it was raining, it was particularly unpleasant–and frequently even more time-consuming. And, of course, I could expect the same drawn-out commute by public transit on the way home, meaning that I potentially lengthened my work day/commute by up to 3 hours with public transit.

Contrast that with a maximum of 20 minutes each way in my dry, climate-controlled car.

Would you like to guess what was my preferred mode of transportation?

On my last job, there was absolutely NO option for public transportation.

It is fine to pontificate about wasting time, money, and natural resources with people commuting by car. However, with so little adequate transportation infrastructure outside of our large cities, and with dwindling financial resources for the government to expand public transportation, I view this type of pontificating for public transit as just so much idealism that has no basis in reality.

I have tried making the argument that small, densely populated European countries are not a fair comparison to the United States and it’s vast, sprawling, agricultural landscape, which makes nationwide mass transit not a realistic short-term goal. It doesn’t work.

Publc transportation works well in densely populated areas. It does not work effectively in sparsely populated areas.

Bus routes are far, far cheaper to create, operate, and maintain than rails. And they already exist where practical. As do rails.

So, how exactly do you propose converting that $115 Billion in productivity into public transportation if traffic jams could be eliminated? It seems more likely that it would go into business expansion (which would create new traffic jams), profits, bonuses, and federal regulatory beaurocracys (sp?). And explain why it shouldn’t go towards reducing the federal deficit.

“Officials we spoke to”? Who is “we”?

Finish the story you quoted. It also states that traffic is a sign of prosperity. Do away with the automobile and then seriously think about the industries that will be affected, and wiped out, by this.
You want an unemployment rate skyrocketing into the high double digits and riots in the streets?

I wonder how many of these people who tout mass transit actually ever use it or for that matter, even walk or bike.

Here we go again.

Ed B.

I hear your pain!

Beats the heck out of I was told my battery was bad and now my car won’t start. What’s wrong?

I’m not sure there are many improvements in mass transit that will pull commuters off the roads. In NJ the new governor nixed a plan that was really needed to increase commuter rail traffic across the Hudson.

I would like to see train tracks improved for more freight and high speed trains between more large cities. More rail freight would reduce truck traffic on the interstates. More high speed trains takes some burden off air travel and opens up travel to mid size cities with stops between large cities.

China is building more roads and train tracks at a fast pace. USA is pretty much stagnant again in comparison. Off course the tea party folks won’t want any new anything unless you can build it for free. China isn’t just going to surpass us, they are going to blow by us at 90 mph while we are standing still.

The comparisons are shear baloney. Back in 1977 I had to pass on a job in Baltimore because I lived in the outlying area and the bus that would take me to my first transfer point left 1/2 hour after work started. The return bus left 45 minutes BEFORE work ended. It was a no win situation. As stated before it’s not just the distances travelled nor the time sitting in traffic at rush hour-what really matters here is that highways in and near municipalities are DESIGNED to slow traffic instead of allowing smooth traffic flow. Take a look at San Antonio (TX’s) system-the off ramps end near a stop light and traffic backs out onto the highway during peak use periods. Stupid engineers and greedy town governments are what makes things like this happen. Oh yeah, during the latest economic crunch public transit routs were either shortened or eliminated to save $$ here in San Antonio. Save time & money-Yeah right, the data and the conclusions are flawed.

While it’s a good idea public transit is extremely impractical for most people.

I will also say this very softly for full effect “DON’T BELIEVE EVERYTHING YOU HEAR ON THE NEWS!” While there would be some facts in the article you can bet your sweet bippy its loaded with sensationalism and biased manure. Remember that some news reports are simply ideas that networks want you to believe.

Just to hijack this post, a study on the radio today. A 40% tax on soft drinks would increase revenue by x million, and people would loose 1 pound a year. It is similar in that it will cost us something and gain nothing.
Not the story I heard but similar

Same here. If I called a cab, it’d be a good 10~15 minutes, or more, before they got to my house. Then, take their drive time, plus the time it took them to get there, it’s not worth it. I can get to work myself in the time it’d take the cab to get here; unless there is a train.
I can’t even begin to tell you what the city bus route is, but it might be similar to the cabs, in that you call them, they pick you and and take you there.

Well if we all lost about 50% in home values I might be able to swing a mortgage in the town where I work. That would cut my mostly no stops commute of 20 min. A 75% loss in real estate value would mean I could have a 5 min walk to work. So who is up for this idea?

To heck with it. Instead of driving to work, let’s just get fired and sit around at home eating Cheeto’s and drawing unemployment. When the unemployment runs out, apply for welfare and continue sitting around the house doing nothing productive. At least that way our cars won’t be out there causing cancer, wasting time, causing traffic jams, and creating a massacre of traffic-related fatalities. That should make at least one person happy.