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What Urban Sprawl Is Really Doing to Your Commute

Urban traffic congestion is growing dramatically, according to a new report. So why aren’t drivers taking longer to get to work?
Rush hour traffic outside Dallas, Texas.
Rush hour traffic outside Dallas, Texas.LM Otero/AP

A new report from the Texas A&M Transportation Institute about commuters’ traffic woes is a doozy. The big takeaway: Drivers are wasting more time than ever “stopping and going in an ocean of brake lights” (to quote one news account). Since the Institute’s first Urban Mobility Report was issued in 1982, the number of hours per commuter lost to traffic delay has nearly tripled, climbing to 54 hours a year. The nationwide cost of gridlock has grown more than tenfold, to $166 billion a year.

This series of reports has become sort of infamous in transportation circles: It’s been the target of scathing criticism for focusing solely on driving and traffic to the exclusion of public transit, walking, biking, sprawl, pollution, injuries, deaths, or carbon emissions.