Congested roads? That'll be $7.3 billion, please

If you've ever wondered -- while sitting in traffic on the highway, crawling forward a few feet before stomping the brakes once again as dozens of little red lights wink in front of you -- just what you're missing, the Metropolitan Planning Council has an answer.

$14.58 an hour, or $3,014 annually, in wasted fuel, time, and production.

And that, the Chicago-based MPC notes, is "enough to cover almost twelve months' worth of groceries, fill up the average car's gas tank 46 times, or take a family of four to Disney World – twice!" There's more: The total cost to the northeastern Illinois economy is $7.3 billion -- and the cost to freight companies alone is about $1 billion.

The figures are part of the organization's new report on the price those of us in northeastern Illinois pay for our traffic woes, Moving at the Speed of Congestion: The True Costs of Congestion in the Chicago Area, released Aug. 5.

The report doesn't stop at "there is congestion," but breaks down the region's traffic woes by delving into the location of traffic congestion, origins of traffic congestion, as well as the price paid by the region in terms of lost economic opportunities.

As one might expect, the report’s release was covered by the Chicago Tribune. More interesting, however, is the attention from suburban papers, including the Daily Herald, Aurora Beacon News, and Joliet Herald News.

Individually, these reports and the news stories about them may not do much. Their cumulative effect is something else, contributing perhaps that last final push to peoples’ sense that something is very broken with the way we build our places.

Now it’s up to us to show them how to fix it.


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