It’s that time of year again.
The Texas Transportation Institute released its statistics on America’s most congested metropolitan areas and the Washington, D.C., area retained its third place ranking.
At least that is one way of looking at the statistics released on Wednesday. Others view the numbers and report that our area has the ninth worst traffic, while still others say eighth. According to some of the statistics, we’re not even in the top 40.
The study by the Texas Transportation Institute (whose football team is being wooed by the Atlantic Coast Conference) measures the amount of time commuters are stuck in traffic each year.
The extensive collection of data reveals that the average driver in our region wastes 58 hours per year sitting in rush hour delays. The study also shows that the average time wasted in traffic by all area motorists is 34 hours a year – up from 24 ten years ago.
As one national newspaper put it, the release of the annual transportation study set off flood of press releases by various organizations using the data to promote their agenda.
Road builders said the study is an obvious sign that we need more roads. Boosters of mass transit said it reveals badly needed investment in bus and rail service. Environmentalists lauded the fact that the Washington area dropped out of the top five (to 8th) when figuring in the affects of mass transit and HOV lanes.
Lawmakers in Richmond will almost certainly use the TTI report when pushing legislation ranging from transportation funding to adequate public facilities legislation.
The Washington, D.C., area’s transportation gridlock is legendary. This is primarily the case because of the region’s vibrant economy. People go where the jobs are. If there were a million jobs in Stafford County, the traffic jams would be aimed south each morning.
Another problem is that people love their cars. Not everyone, since some slug or ride mass transit, but the capacity of our roads proves that many residents would rather sit in traffic than ride for a shorter trip duration.
Last year, Northern Virginia residents were asked to vote for an added half cent to the sales tax to pay for new roads and transit. The TTI study was used to both promote and condemn that referendum.
This year there are competing proposals for mass transit involving bus rapid transit and extended HOV and HOT lanes. It’s guaranteed that the TTI statistics will be tossed into each of those campaigns as well.
The latest TTI report probably does contain some useful data to those who consider themselves traffic geeks. Its primary use lately, however, has been to skew the data to fill in the blanks of organizations with competing agendas.