Sitting in Traffic is Costing Americans a Fortune

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Few things are more soul-crushing than spending hours upon hours sitting in traffic. Well, new research is about to make it just a little bit worse — by assigning a massive dollar figure to all that time spent in gridlock.

That’s right, the Centre for Economic and Business Research in conjunction with Kirkland, WA-based company Inrix Inc. has released the results of a study that looks at the economic and environmental tolls of gridlock across the United States and Europe. Their findings?

“The combined annual cost of traffic gridlock in Europe and the U.S. will soar to $293.1 billion by 2030, almost a 50% increase from 2013, driven mainly by urban population growth and higher living standards,” the study found. “Over this period, the total cumulative cost of traffic congestion for these economies is estimated to be a staggering $4.4 trillion.”

That’s a hefty price tag, and the study’s assessment doesn’t give much hope for the next decade and a half in terms of costs receding. In fact, Kevin Foreman, general manager of GeoAnalytics at Inrix says that the immediate future looks incredibly bleak in terms of solving the issue. “This report shows that advanced economies could be heading for ‘car-maggedon,’” he said. “The scale of the problem is enormous, and we now know that gridlock will continue to have serious consequences for national and city economies, businesses, and households into the future.”

As a small sliver of good news for American drivers, projections show that the UK is set to suffer the biggest overall increases in costs over the next 15 or so years, with an overall 63% jump. Of course, the U.S. doesn’t fair much better, as analysts expect American costs to spike by 50% over the same time period.

As previously mentioned, the major causes behind these cost increases can be traced back to increases in population and living standards. Essentially, that means that more people will be able to afford vehicles, and thus will use them, creating even more congestion. Naturally, that will lead to more investment in infrastructure, including new new roads and bridges. Also, the more roads are used, the more they will require regular maintenance and repair, digging deeper into public resources. This effect will be augmented in already congested urban areas, snowballing the effect. Other factors playing into rising costs include rising prices for cars, car insurance, and, of course, fuel.

Is there anything that can be done to help stop future issues before they start? It’s already a given that costs are going to increase, but what can the average driver do to help? Kevin Foreman says it will require some significant public investment in the near-term to save some considerable funds in the long-term.

“Improving public transport infrastructure may provide more choice for travelers, but it won’t solve the problem. Technology innovations like multi-modal routing and real-time traffic in connected cars and on mobile devices should be adopted more widely, helping to create smarter cities worldwide,” he said.

Of course, getting political and local leaders on board with spending more money in the current political climate is unlikely. Utilizing public transportation and telecommuting options could also help, but as we know, many are reluctant to adopt public transport as a viable option. Of course, with technology advancing rapidly and self-driving cars, work-at-home options, and online schooling becoming more common, perhaps the costs may end up being less than predicted.

If not, drivers should prepare for some skyrocketing costs over the next decade and a half.

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