Silver lining. Opportunity. Sign of the times.

Whatever you want to call it, high gas prices and the dire economy have reduced national average rush hour traffic times for the second year in a row. In some cities, like Washington, D.C., traffic is getting worse, but the average U.S. driver spent "just" 36.1 hours in rush hour traffic in 2007 (no 2008 data is available yet), down from 36.6 in 2006 and 37.4 in 2005. These numbers were released by the Texas Transportation Institute, but they're likely not a sign of things to come. TTI says that "when the economy rebounds, expect traffic problems to do the same" but suggests that flexible work hours and adding more traffic capacity and public transportation options could relieve the upcoming stresses.

The drop in congestion meant that total wasted fuel also dropped. In 2007, 2.8 billion gallons were wasted, equal to three weeks of gas for each traveler. That's down, a bit, from 2.85 billion gallons in 2006. Gobs of time were also puttered away: TTI says that travelers wasted 4.2 billion hours stuck in traffic in 2007. That's equivalent to about a full week of work for each traveler. Who's up for telecommuting?

[Source: Texas Transportation Institute via NPR]
Photo by flickrized. Licensed under Creative Commons license 2.0.

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