Metro’s response to Texas Transportation Institute’s annual congestion rankings

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The annual Texas Transportation Institute congestion survey was released today and, as usual, the L.A. metropolitan area didn’t fare well — ranked third in the U.S. for time delays per auto commuter per year and first when it came to overall time and fuel wasted due to traffic jams.

As I posted yesterday, this isn’t exactly shocking news — we live in a big, sprawling six-county region with millions of cars and trucks on the road. I encourage you to check out some U.S. Census Bureau statistics in yesterday’s post that I believe better explains how we’re getting around the L.A. region these days.

Here is the official response to the TTI study from Metro:

Texas Transportation Institute’s 2011 Annual Urban Mobility Report released today is the nation’s barometer of the rising pressure caused by traffic congestion in 439 urban areas. Although traffic congestion continues to rise in American cities of all sizes, the urban area swath of Los Angeles, Long Beach and Santa Ana is holding the line in the battle with traffic congestion and holding promise of future mobility.

In terms of congestion and fuel costs and delays in travel time per auto commuter, the Los Angeles – Long Beach – Santa Ana urban area ranked third in the nation for very large urban areas with a population of over 3 million. On the downside, the region ranked first when measured in terms of an aggregate population wasting 521,449 hours in travel delay and consuming an excess of 278,318 gallons of fuel which costs the region $10.9 billion. The just-released mobility report notes that congestion in the Los Angeles-Long Beach-Santa Ana region chokes 57 percent of the freeway and major arterial system during the 8-hour peak periods, causing the average peak period traveler to spend an extra 64 hours of travel time – up from 25 hours in 1982 — and an additional 34 gallons of fuel per year. Congestion costs the solo driver an additional $1,334 in cold, hard cash to operate an automobile.

There’s more response after the jump!

Significantly, the region ranked number one in savings in both costs and delays because of the solutions to the problem of traffic congestion that are in operation now and others on the way.

The region-wide campaign to promote carpooling, transit, traffic control technology, bike programs and other alternatives to driving alone as a means of easing traffic congestion and improving air quality is paying off. Most pointedly, the report notes that public transportation alone saved regional commuters and travelers some 33,606 hours of delay and nearly $709 million in congestion costs.

While the traffic forecast for the nation is dismal, the outlook in Southern California is optimistic because of the solutions already in place and others on the way. Metro is taking a multi-pronged approach to congestion. Measure R, the half-percent sales tax overwhelmingly approved by voters voted into law to pay for transportation improvements, is paying for the expansion of public transit and improvements to increase the traffic flow on streets and freeways and congesting-busting technology of traffic signalization, and ramp sensors. A federally funded grant of $210 million is funding the ExpressLanes project that will convert carpool lanes into toll lanes, which is being tested to manage traffic as well as pay for improvements. And, more than $1 billion in transit-oriented development along transit corridors is giving commuters and others an alternative to slogging in traffic.

Bottom line, this approach and these solutions to traffic congestion in Los Angeles and the region improves the quality of life and will advance future mobility in the region.

The TTI, to their credit, is pushing this message today: although congestion has slowed due to the economy, the time is now to invest in transportation to avoid worsening traffic jams when unemployment hopefully goes down. From their press release:

The most economical and effective congestion solutions involve traditional road building and transit use, combined with traffic management strategies such as signal coordination and rapid crash removal, and demand management strategies like telecommuting and flexible work hours. Land use and development patterns can play a positive role, as well.

The researchers stress that there is no single best way to fix the problems. The best solutions, they say, will come from efforts that have meaningful involvement from everyone concerned – agencies, businesses and travelers.

“The solution mix may be different for each city, but the one thing they all share in common is urgency, Lomax says. “If we want a strong economy, doing nothing is not a productive option.”

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