The annual Urban Mobility Report by traffic researchers at Texas A&M University also says Houston, with the nation's 11th largest metro area population, ranked fifth in annual delay per traveler — 63 hours in 2003, the last year for which data is available.
That compared with 93 hours for Los Angeles, 72 for San Francisco, 69 for Washington and 67 for Atlanta.
The report, prepared by A&M's Texas Transportation Institute, shows traffic congestion in Houston eased in the late 1980s and early '90s after a spate of roadbuilding, but the trend has been generally upward again since then, with a few bumps along the way.
Houston's annual delay per traveler has surged from 39 hours in 1982, when the data was first compiled, and although the 63 hours logged in the most recent report is down slightly from 65 hours the previous year, the decrease is statistically insignificant.
The delay in Houston would have been 13 percent greater if not for transit, the report says. For specific areas such as downtown, the added burden would increase by 30 percent or more if transit were not available, said Tim Lomax, who wrote the report with colleague David Schrank. "And you'd have 30 percent more cars needing places to park," he added.
As in each of the past several years, TTI recommends a mix of roadbuilding, car pools, transit, working from home, signal coordination and incident management — like the city's Safe Clear towing program — to ease the future crunch.
"It's become increasingly clear that no single mode will solve the problem," Lomax said.
Among Texas cities, delay per traveler was 60 hours for Dallas-Fort Worth, 33 for San Antonio and 51 for Austin. In 1982, when the data was first compiled, Austin's delay was just 11 hours compared to Houston's 39.
"It's due to rapid growth, and they (Austin officials) didn't build up their transportation system while they were growing," Lomax said.
"For a long time they had a policy of trying to sort of manage the growth and not add more transportation facilities. Now they have a lot more congestion," he said.
As for San Antonio, most of the driving I've done there was in the 80s and early 90s, as a student and then visiting friends after I moved to Houston. You'd occasionally get stuck on the North Loop, and the 281/410 interchange, which bizarrely involves exiting the highway and going through traffic lights instead of a direct ramp like you'd expect, was a pain, but other than that, it was the easiest place in the world to drive. I can't explain why - there just aren't as many drivers there as you'd expect for a city its size. I'm not surprised its delay numbers are so much lower.
UPDATE: There's a longer version of this story here.
UPDATE: Jeb disputes the study's contentions about Austin.Posted by Charles Kuffner on May 10, 2005 to Planes, Trains, and Automobiles | TrackBack