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Detroit ranks at bottom in drivers’ time in traffic

Associated Press

Detroit ranks 24th among the top 25 U.S. cities for time drivers spend in congestion, pairing with Pittsburgh for fewer peak hours spent in traffic, according to a recent traffic study.

The Motor City tied with Pittsburgh for 33 peak hours stuck in traffic in 2016, according to research released by Inrix, a transportation analytics firm.

Researchers cite traffic as a sign of a healthy and burgeoning economy, the Inrix report says. Those features also mean greater congestion and associated cost of lost productivity and fuel.

“From the cost of additional fuel and the environmental impact of associated emissions, to the opportunity cost of the time drivers spend stuck in gridlock,” researchers said. “Moreover, the extent to which businesses incur costs of congestion, these are usually passed on to consumers in the form of higher prices for goods and services.”

Detroit tied with Phoenix for the lowest cost of congestion per driver, at $1,062, among the top 25 U.S. city ranking. Both were also among the bottom 25 of the three categories of costs analyzed in the survey: business, commuting and leisure/other.

The study analyzed congestion in 240 cities and large urban areas. It found congestion cost drivers in the United States more than $295 billion in direct and indirect costs in 2016, the study’s authors said. The Inrix Research team is composed of economists, transportation policy specialists and data scientists in Europe and North America. The study covers 1,064 cities in 38 countries.

Los Angeles leads in peak hours spent in traffic congestion and costs drivers more than $2,400 on average, the study found. Congestion costs New Yorkers the most in the United States — more than $2,500 per driver, or nearly $17 billion for the New York City urban area as a whole, the highest of any urban area studied, the study found.

Drivers in car-crazy Los Angeles spent 104 hours each driving in congestion during peak travel periods last year. That topped second-place Moscow at 91 hours and third-place New York at 89, according to a traffic scorecard compiled by Inrix, a transportation analytics firm.

The U.S. had half the cities on Inrix’s list of the top 10 most congested areas in the world and was the most congested developed country on the planet, Inrix found. U.S. drivers averaged 42 hours per year in traffic during peak times, the study found. San Francisco was the fourth-most congested city, while Bogota, Colombia, was fifth, Sao Paulo ranked sixth and London, Atlanta, Paris and Miami rounded out the top 10.

Being stuck in traffic cost the average U.S. driver $1,400 last year and nearly $300 billion for all drivers nationwide, Inrix said.

Study authors said a stable U.S. economy, continued urbanization of big cities, employment growth and low gas prices all contributed to increased traffic and congestion worldwide in 2016, lowering the quality of life.

It’s not likely to get better anytime soon, wrote Bob Pishue, senior economist at Inrix.

“The demand for driving is expected to continue to rise, while the supply of roadway will remain flat,” he said in a statement.

As demand continues to exceed “the supply of roadway,” congestion will rise, the study asserted.

Pishue suggests that governments use traffic data and technology to make traffic move more smoothly while they consider additional road projects.

Of 240 U.S. cities studied by Inrix, drivers in Parkersburg, West Virginia, spent the least amount of time stuck in traffic during peak times at three hours per year.

Inrix said it analyzed 1,064 cities worldwide across 38 countries to come up with its rankings. Since Inrix doesn’t gather its own data in either China or Japan, cities in those countries were not ranked.