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Austin Drivers Spent 51 Million Hours in Traffic Last Year

Filipa Rodrigues/KUT News

An annual study released by researchers at the Texas A&M Transportation Institute shows just how universal the experience of sitting in traffic is for Austin commuters. Capital city drivers spent a total of 51 million hours delayed on the road in 2014, putting Austin at number 29 on a list of cities with the worst traffic delays.

But that’s without accounting for population. When you figure in the fact that Austin’s population is relatively small compared to other major metropolitan areas, it changes up the rankings.

“Usually bigger places mean more traffic congestion. Austin’s numbers are much worse than their population rank,” says Tim Lomax, one of the study’s authors.

He says Austin’s population is small compared to other cities with congested roads, like Los Angeles and New York. So, those 51 million hours are spread out among fewer drivers. Last year, the average Austin commuter spent roughly 52 extra hours sitting in traffic because of congested roadways – roughly six-and-a-half workdays.

The study found that Austin's roads are congested an average five hours a day, out of the eight hours the study looked at. Lomax refers to each hour as a “rush hour,” meaning that Austin typically has five rush hours a day. They’re not all at the same time of day, though — areas like Pflugerville and Round Rock, just outside of Austin, have congestion earlier and later in the day due to daily commuters into the city.

In 2013, the average yearly extra traffic time for individual motorists was an hour less per driver, at 51 hours.

Lomax says the relatively high rate of congestion can be attributed to a combination of factors, but “basically it’s a lot of economic prosperity, a lot of growth, and the transportation network wasn’t built to handle all that.”

The report makes various suggestions for cities experiencing congestion, including more telecommuting, and more flexible work hours for employees, so everyone’s not all crowding the roads at once.

Audrey McGlinchy is KUT's housing reporter. She focuses on affordable housing solutions, renters’ rights and the battles over zoning. Got a tip? Email her at Follow her on Twitter @AKMcGlinchy.