In total, Americans spent 9 billion extra hours on congested roads and highways in 2016 (including commuters, travelers, and freight). The figure rose by one billion from 2015 to 2016 and by almost three billion when compared to 2009 (6.3 billion hours). According to INRIX, each American spent 42 hours stuck in traffic on average in 2016, with Los Angeles, America’s most congested city, averaging 104 hours per passenger per year.
The rise has been attributed to the economic boom seen over the last years, which guarantees that more Americans have a job they can commute to. The main cause of traffic is therefore the growth in the number of passenger cars used by commuters on America’s roads.
What if all commuters left their cars at home?
By leaving their cars at home and using public transportation, American commuters can get rid of traffic and save 5 billion hours collectively. They would also save the direct costs derived from traffic (such as wasted time and fuel) which amount to approximately $1,200 per driver. In total, American commuters will save at least 140 billion dollars.
It is estimated that of all 143 million Americans who commute, 86% drive to work, leaving the total number of drivers at 123 million. Of these 123 million, 96% drive alone and only 4% carpool with a total passenger occupancy of 1.06 passengers per car. This puts the number of cars needed by commuters at 116 million.
By leaving their cars at home and using public transportation when commuting to work, Americans won’t only save time and money but will also have the opportunity to erase road congestion from the history books. There are approximately 272 cars in one mile of traffic carrying 288 passengers (at the average passenger occupancy of 1.06 passengers per car). At 50 passengers per bus, only 6 buses would be needed to transport 288 commuters. The total numbers of buses needed to transport all 123 million commuters would stand at 2.5 million as opposed to 116 million cars.
If all commuters left their cars at home and instead used public transportation, it would be the equivalent of:
Saving 5 billion hours collectively.
Saving $1,200 annually per commuter.
Saving $140 billion collectively.
Saving 549 million metric tons of CO2.
Getting rid of traffic jams once and for all.
To obtain the total number of hours, we multiplied the total number of cars (211 million) by the average number of hours spent in traffic by each American (42 hours)
To obtain the total number of hours driven by commuters, we multiplied the total number of cars used by commuters (116 million) by the average number of hours spent in traffic (42 hours)
To obtain the carbon emissions of all commuters, we multiplied the total number of cars driven by commuters (116 million) by the average CO2 emissions of a passenger car (4.73 metric tons of CO2)
To obtain the number of cars in a mile, we estimated the average light-duty short car length at 15.80 ft and average light-duty long car length at 17.33 ft and added a 3.28 ft distance between cars. We also took into account the percentage of short- and long-duty vehicles owned by American drivers (78% and 22% respectively)
Note: Percentages might not add up due to rounding.
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