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America's traffic gridlock: By the numbers
Though the recession ushered in a brief respite, road congestion is back to rage-inducing levels, says a new report
Time is money: The hours we spent stuck in traffic in 2009 cost the average American more than $800.
Time is money: The hours we spent stuck in traffic in 2009 cost the average American more than $800.
Corbis
I

n a depressing sign of economic recovery, gridlock is once again clogging the roadways of America, according to the Urban Mobility Report, an annual study of traffic released by the Texas Transportation Institute. During the economic slowdown that took hold in 2008, fewer people drove to work (or to shopping centers), leaving congestion "better than it had been in a decade," reports NPR. But as the economy began to recover in 2009, traffic began to jam anew and is now re-approaching boom-time highs. Here's a by-the-numbers look at the problem:

14
Hours the average American wasted in traffic in 1982, the first year for which there are records

39.1
Hours the average American wasted in traffic in 2006 (an all-time high)

33.7
Hours the average American wasted in traffic in 2008, down almost 14 percent from 2006

34

Hours the average American wasted in traffic in 2009 as the recovery began

70
Hours an average commuter in Chicago or Washington, D.C. — the worst areas for congestion — lost to traffic jams in 2009

3.9 billion

Gallons of gas Americans wasted sitting in traffic in 2009

$808
Cost to the average American commuter of the time we spent stuck in traffic in 2009 (in terms of "wasted fuel, lost work hours," among other metrics)

$351
Cost, adjusted for inflation, to the average commuter of the time we spent stuck in traffic in 1982

4.62 billion
Number of total hours Americans spent in traffic in 2009

5.25 billion
Number of hours Americans spent in traffic in 2006, the all-time high

9.3 percent
Unemployment rate in 2009

4.6 percent
Unemployment rate in 2006

439
Number of "urban areas" the report studied

60
Percentage of people expected to live in urban areas by 2030. "That will require — no, it will demand — that we embrace multimodal, not car-centric, transportation systems," says Chuck Squatriglia at Wired

Sources: Wired, NPR, New York Times

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