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September 18, 2007
Sitting in Providence traffic? Count your blessings
PROVIDENCE -- We may curse the traffic on Route 95, but a national study released today says that drivers in the Providence area have less to cuss about than drivers in most other urban areas of its size.
Nationally, traffic congestion continues to worsen in cities of all sizes, according to the study by the Texas Transportation Instiutute, which said it creates a $78-billion annual drain on the U.S. economy in the form of 4.2 billion lost hours and 2.9 billion gallons of wasted fuel.
The study estimates that drivers during peak traffic hours in the Providence area lost 19.5 million hours to congestion in 2005, the last year for which data was available, or 29 hours per traveler. That figure has risen seven hours per peak traveler since 2000, but remained stable from 2004 to 2005.
The good old days, meanwhile, really were much better as far as traffic was concerned. Back in 1982, the earliest data the study includes, Providence area peak-time travelers lost only 3 hours to delay during that year.
The study says that Providence drivers now suffer much lower congestion than the other urban areas in its group, and much slower growth since 1982 in the amount of delay due to congestion than the group as a whole. Nationally, lost time and fuel amount to the equivalent of 105 million weeks of vacation and 58 fully-loaded supertankers, the institute said.
Congestion cost Providence-area travelers during peak traffic times $343 million in 2005, the study says, counting travel time at $14.60 per hour, truck time at $77.10 per hour and fuel using average costs per gallon. That cost amounted to $507 per peak traveler.
Meanwhile, there was improvement in some factors that help reduce congestion. Use of mass transportation has steadily increased, totaling 99 million passenger miles in 2005 from 64 million miles in 2000. The number of mass transit trips, however, increased only slightly, to 20 million trips in 2005 from 18 millioin trips in 2000.
The study dealt with 800 square miles of urbanized area, with a population density of more than 1,000 persons per square mile, in and around Providence and extending into Massachusetts. The Providence urban area's population has grown only 40,000 since 2000, to 1,245,000 persons. It included 780 square miles in 2000.
The study ranks the Providence metro area among "large" cities with populations between 1 million and 3 million. There were no other New England urban areas in that group, which includes San Diego, Baltimore, Pittsburgh and.Cleveland.
--By Bruce Landis, Journal staff writer
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