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Chicago Ranks First in U.S. Traffic Congestion

January 28, 2011

Chicago now has the undesirable distinction of having the nation’s worst traffic congestion, according to the recently released Texas Transportation Institute (TTI) annual Urban Mobility Report. The 2010 report looked at 439 urban areas in the country for 2009, and further determined the following findings for the Chicago metropolitan region:

  • Beyond the time it normally would take for an automobile trip in relatively free-flowing traffic, commuters in the Chicago area spent an additional 70 hours behind the wheel in 2009.
  • The Chicago region averaged the highest in the cost of congestion to each individual commuter -- $1,738 per individual.
  • Nationally, the cost of congestion totaled $115 billion in 2009. The Metropolitan Planning Council conducted its own research two years ago concluding that the cost of traffic congestion to the Chicago region was $7.3 billion annually.

"The report is a great reminder of how important transit is to the northeastern region," said Joe Costello, RTA Executive Director. "If we can acquire adequate funding to address our deteriorating transit system, more commuters will look at transportation as the most viable solution for getting to work, school and recreational activities." An asset condition assessment conducted by the RTA last year showed that the transit system is in need of $24 billion to restore it to a state of good repair. Also completed last year, an RTA market analysis determined that 38 percent of the region’s households use the transit system weekly.

Additionally, the TTI report makes clear that without public transportation services, travelers in the U.S. would have suffered an additional 785 million hours of delay and consumed 640 million more gallons of fuel. For northeastern Illinois, the report indicated that hours of delay saved from using our transit system totaled over 92 million hours – second only to New York and its surrounding states. The gallons of fuel saved for our region totaled over 82 million resulting in congestion cost savings of $2.4 billion.

“There is no doubt that expanding public transportation use is key to reducing traffic congestion,” said American Public Transportation Association (APTA) President William Millar. “Clearly, even if you don’t ride public transportation, it is still in your best interest to support investment in public transit. Better public transportation in your community means less congestion on the roads.”

In addition to its proven record of reducing congestion, public transportation offers economic benefits. Public transportation plays an important role in helping people commute to work; nearly 60 percent of all trips on public transportation involve travel to and from job sites. Also, every $1 billion invested in public transportation creates and supports 36,000 jobs.

View a copy of other urban areas that had the highest savings in hours of delay due to public transportation use in 2009 and congestion cost savings from public transportation use (the total for both the cost of hours of delay saved and gallons of fuel saved). The full Urban Mobility Report can be accessed at

Press Information

Melissa Meyer

Communications Manager
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