Why The 5.5 Billion Hours Americans Spend In Commuter Traffic Justifies More Infrastructure Spending

The 5.5 billion hours Americans sat in traffic in 2011 cost the country a whopping $121 billion, according to an Urban Mobility Report from Texas A&M. Not surprisingly, the most congested cities are also some of the most populated, including Washington, Los Angeles, San Francisco-Oakland, New York-Newark, Boston, Houston, Atlanta, Chicago, Philadelphia and Seattle:

Consumers bear much of the cost in time and gas, with the wasted fuel totaling 2.9 billion gallons — enough to fill the New Orleans Superdome four times over. The total costs are up $1 billion from the year before, which translates to $818 per U.S. commuter. Commuters must shoulder the cost of time wasted, too, since many need to allot a full hour for a trip that should take 20 minutes.

There are massive pollution costs to this much traffic as well: Traffic congestion adds 56 billion pounds of carbon dioxide emissions to the atmosphere, or 380 pounds per commuter.

The obvious fix is more funding for infrastructure, and the researchers recommend prioritizing public transit. In the most congested cities, an increasing number of Americans rely on public transit. However, Republicans have repeatedly sought to cut mass transit funding, while public investment has plunged since the recession. The nation’s growing infrastructure deficit currently stands at $1.6 trillion.