Traffic congestion in the United States is going to get worse before it gets better, according to researchers for Texas A&M University’s Texas Transportation Institute.
Their conclusions are included in the institute’s 2019 Urban Mobility Report, which also offers suggestions for possible long-term solutions.
“No single approach will ever solve this complex problem,” stresses Tim Lomax, a report author and Regents Fellow at TTI.
In 2017, congestion caused urban Americans to travel an extra 8.8 billion hours and purchase an extra 3.3 billion gallons of fuel, resulting in a combined congestion cost of $166 billion.
Measured together, those two costs alone were up from a total of $157 billion in 2016, $71 billion in 2000 and $14 billion in 1982 – as measured in constant 2017 dollars.
“The problem affects not only commuters, but also manufacturers and shippers whose travel delay costs are passed on to consumers,” says Bill Eisele, a report author and TTI senior research engineer. “While trucks constitute only 7% of road traffic, they account for 12% of congestion cost.”
These logistics costs do not include the extra costs borne by companies who build additional distribution centers, buy more trucks and build more satellite office centers to allow them to overcome
the problems that are caused by a congested and inefficient transportation network.
Congestion also has become a problem at all times of day, not just the usual “rush” hours. The researchers found that about one third of total delay occurs in the midday and overnight – the times of day when travelers and shippers would normally expect free- flow travel.
In addition, congestion has gotten worse in areas of every size – it’s not just a big city problem anymore. Both big towns and small cities have congestion problems, the researchers note.
“Every economy is different and smaller regions often count on good mobility as a quality-of-life aspect that allows them to compete with larger, more economically diverse regions.”
David Schrank, a TTI senior research scientist and report author, adds, “Eventually, we’re talking billions of wasted hours, and the cost of delay at that scale is just enormous.
“Simply put, travel demand is growing faster than the system’s ability to absorb that demand. Once considered a problem exclusive to big cities, roadway gridlock now afflicts urban areas of all sizes and consumes far more of each day, making ‘rush hour’ a long-outdated reference.”
Take an example of a trip that typically requires 20 minutes when there are few other vehicles on the road. In 2017, the average big city commute was 26 minutes in the morning and 28 minutes in the evening peak.
If you must make a very important trip during any of these time periods, additional “planning time” needed to reliably arrive on-time means your 20- minute trip will take around 33 minutes in the morning and 36 minutes in the evening, and even 30 minutes in the midday, the researchers point out.
If all that isn’t bad enough, travelers and freight shippers had to add nearly 70% more travel time than when there are light traffic conditions to account for unexpected crashes, bad weather, special events and other irregular congestion causes.
Don’t expect it to get better anytime soon, says Bill Eisele, a report author and TTI senior research engineer. “The myriad possible solutions – from more highways, streets and public transportation; better traffic operations; more travel options; new land development styles; advanced technology – have not worked.”
TTI estimates the national congestion cost will grow from $166 billion in 2017 to $200 billion in 2025 (in 2017 dollars) – up by 20%. Delays will worsen to 10 billion hours (up 14%); and wasted fuel will rise to 3.6 billion gallons in 2025 (up 9%).
In addition, the average commuter’s congestion cost will grow from $1,010 in 2017 to $1,140 in 2025 (in 2017 dollars) — a 13% increase. He or she also will waste 62 hours (almost eight vacation days) and 23 gallons of fuel in 2025, which will be up by 15%.
Although congestion will get worse, the TTI researchers stress it is vital to act now to create a consensus for major projects, programs and funding efforts that take 10 to 15 years to develop.
They say solutions will include technology-linked real-time traffic information to drivers of connected vehicles and deployment of autonomous vehicles. Others involve better urban planning, revitalizing city centers and creating suburban missed use communities allowing people to live close to work.
“Realistic expectations are also part of the solution,” TTI says. “Large urban areas will be congested. Some locations near key activity centers in smaller urban areas also will be congested.”
<h2>OSHA Requires Personal Training</h2>
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is reminding employers that online and computer training for employees is not adequate by itself to meet federal training requirements.
OSHA’s interpretation of its requirement that training must “result in mastery of the training material” leads to the conclusion that online training must be supplemented by interactive and physical components, such as physical examples of putting on and removing Personal Protective Equipment.
“Online training that does not provide workers with hands-on training would not comply with the agency’s worker training requirements,” OSHA stresses.
According to OSHA, online training must provide workers with the opportunity to be able to ask questions of, and receive responses from, a qualified trainer in a timely manner.
“Training with no interaction, or delayed or limited interaction, between the trainer and trainee may halt or negatively affect a trainee’s ability to understand and/or retain the training material,” OSHA says.
“Equally important is the provision of sufficient hands-on training because it allows an employee to interact with equipment and tools in the presence of a qualified trainers, allows the employee to learn or refresh their skills through experience, and allows the trainer to assess whether the trainees have mastered the proper techniques.”
OSHA adds that a qualified trainer must supplement and facilitate any appropriate hands-on training or demonstration (for example, how to use a tool, perform a task or don appropriate PPE) as necessary for the employee to learn the proper safety and operational techniques, and for the trainer to assess the employee’s mastery of them.
A qualified trainer must be available to answer questions while the training takes place. “Training with no interaction, or delayed or limited interaction, between the trainer and trainee may halt or negatively affect a trainee’s ability to understand and/or retain the training material,” OSHA explains.