Americans stuck in rush-hour traffic—and estimates suggest there are about 110 million of them on any given day—have the economic recovery to thank for their frustration, at least in part.
In a recovering economy, more people need to get to work. And when more people drive, things get congested: The total amount of time that American rush-hour commuters in 2014 spent stuck in traffic was about 6.9 billion hours, up from 6.4 billion in 2010, according to a report from the Texas Transportation Institute, which is part of Texas A&M University. That works out to about 42 hours—essentially a full work week—per commuter per year. “We're back as a nation, beyond where we were pre-recession,” says David Schrank, an author of the report.
Certain cities have much more severely congested roads than others. Washington, D.C., currently holds the national record, with drivers on average spending 82 hours per year sitting in traffic. San Francisco, New York, and Los Angeles are close behind, but the problem has been growing in smaller cities too.
If the economy continues growing, the annual delay is expected to increase from its current level, 42 hours, to 47 hours. In the short run, cheaper gasoline has exacerbated the problem.