WASHINGTON -- As you know, the D.C. area is already No. 1 for worst traffic congestion in the U.S., according to the Texas Transportation Institute's 2011 Urban Mobility Report. With a yearly commute that is twice as long as the nation's average, we lose three days per year sitting in traffic (though discounting the 34 hours that the average American spends in traffic, it's really just an extra day and a half we're spending in the car here in D.C.). You also know that this year, the whole congestion thing is only likely to get worse.
Virginia's transportation secretary, Sean Connaughton, tried something, telling The Washington Post that the "good news" here is "the reason we have more congestion is that the Washington region has a very strong economy." Sounds great -- except in 2009, D.C.'s traffic was getting worse even in a bad economy (D.C. was No. 4 that year), which means it's hard to draw good conclusions about what increases in traffic really means vis-a-vis the economy. (And at least one academic found that there is "almost no correlation between congestion and recent job growth" -- a 2007 report published by the Minnesota Department of Transportation came to a similar conclusion.)
So if we can't think nice thoughts about how well the economy must be doing, if we're losing an extra day and a half of our lives every year while stuck in traffic, it's at least quite pleasant to picture the Capital Beltway back in ancient times, when it was, apparently, tiny dinosaurs rather than large cars taking up all that space.
Flickr photo by Elvert Barnes
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