Skip to main content

Excess traffic costs metropolitan Chicago $7.3 billion a year

Core News Facts

* The latest report from the Metropolitan Planning Council (MPC), Moving at the Speed of Congestion, quantifies the cost of excess traffic congestion to Chicagoland businesses, counties and residents.

* MPC commissioned HDR Decision Economics to conduct the research behind this report.

* Researchers found that, due to excess traffic congestion on the entire region’s transportation network, metropolitan Chicago squanders at least $7.3 billion per year in lost time, fuel, productivity, and environmental damages – nearly twice the largest previous estimate.

* If nothing is done, that figure is predicted to grow by 55 percent by 2030, more than twice as fast as the region’s population, to about $11.3 billion per year.

* The $7.3 billion total regional cost includes the cost of lost time, fuel and environmental damages, which are the following: 
         - $6.98 billion in lost time 
         - $354 million in wasted fuel (Estimate is based on 2005 fuel prices; today’s gas prices drive that figure closer to $680 million.) 
         - $33 million in environmental damages (Researchers say this is a very conservative estimate.)

* Gridlock also increases labor costs, impeding the creation of 87,000 jobs throughout the region.

* The regional average cost of wasted time per car commuter is $1,579, while the annual increase in fuel costs per peak period traveler in 2005 came to $81. In other words, lost time costs the Chicago-area economy and its drivers nearly 20 times more than wasted fuel.

* The annual cost of wasted time alone per car commuter ranges from $824 in some of the outlying counties to $3,014 in the city of Chicago .

* Regionally, congestion adds 22 percent to peak period travel times, or about 66 extra minutes each week for a driver whose commute should take 30 minutes each direction. Within Chicago itself, congestion increases peak period travel times by about 40 percent, or about 120 minutes extra per week for someone with a one-hour round-trip commute.

* In terms of where congestion occurs and time is lost, congestion is greatest in and around Chicago and Cook County, the primary destination for most of the region’s workers: 41.5 percent of DuPage County residents work in Cook County, followed by Will (40 percent), Lake (35 percent), McHenry (31.6 percent), and Kane (27.3 percent).

* The majority of the region’s congestion (measured both in vehicle-miles traveled and vehicle-hours of delay) is worse on arterial roads than on expressways, except in Chicago .

* Over the last 20 years, 2,000 miles of new lanes have been added to the region’s highways and arterial roads – a 15 percent increase – yet average rush-hour commute times have doubled. Meanwhile, federal and state funding for capital construction have not kept pace with construction costs, which are rising 10 percent per year.

* The report states the following criteria for solutions to gridlock: 
         - The cost of a solution must not exceed the cost of congestion. 
         - Solutions must balance the needs of business, society, and the environment. 
         - Solutions must be regional in scope. 
         - Solutions must address congestion on expressways and arterial roads. 
         - Solutions must address wasted time as well as fuel.

Quote Attributable to Paul O’Connor, former head of World Business Chicago
“To remain globally competitive, we cannot continue to waste resources that could be invested in more efficient mass transit, better schools, increased job creation, and business attraction. By defining the scope and severity of the cost of gridlock in Chicagoland, this report provides a mandate for change.”

Quote Attributable to Randy Blankenhorn, Executive Director, Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning
"Traffic is synonymous with the Chicago region, and it knows no boundaries. In most cases it is actually worse on local arterial roads throughout the region. Excess congestion has infected the entire region’s transportation network, and everyone from Kane to Cook should support and invest in solutions.”

Quote Attributable to MarySue Barrett, President, Metropolitan Planning Council
“Retailers thrive on bustling streets, and, up to a point, the more people and goods moving through a neighborhood, city or region, the healthier its economy. But, many of our roads have reached the tipping point, where the costs of congestion outweigh the benefits. As a region, we must start to identify and invest in smart solutions.”

Links to Related Content

* A two-minute video of Peter Skosey, MPC vice president of external relations, discussing the report

* Answers to frequently asked questions about the report

* Related reports
         - Texas Transportation Institute 2007 Urban Mobility Report 
         - Urban Land Institute’s Infrastructure 2008: A Competitive Advantage, which sets forth an agenda for infrastructure investment in the U.S. 
         - CEOs for Cities Driven to the Brink report, which indicates the rising cost of commuting has already re-shaped the landscape of real estate value between cities and suburbs

Contact

Mandy Burrell Booth
Asst. Communications Director
Metropolitan Planning Council
312-863-6018 (office)
773-640-1206 (cellular)
mburrell@metroplanning.org

Peter Skosey
Vice President of External Relations
Metropolitan Planning Council
312-863-6004 (office)
312-401-8051 (cellular)
pskosey@metroplanning.org

Metropolitan Planning Council Mission Statement

Founded in 1934, the Metropolitan Planning Council (MPC) is a nonprofit, nonpartisan group of business and civic leaders committed to serving the public interest through development, promotion and implementation of sound planning policies so all residents have access to opportunity and a good quality of life, the building blocks of a globally competitive greater Chicago region.

| Share
Metropolitan Planning Council 140 S. Dearborn St.
Suite 1400
Chicago, Ill. 60603
P 312 922 5616 F 312 922 5619 info@metroplanning.org
Helping create competitive, equitable, and sustainable communities

For more than 80 years, the Metropolitan Planning Council (MPC) has made the Chicago region a better place to live and work by partnering with businesses, communities and governments to address the area's toughest planning and development challenges. MPC works to solve today's urgent problems while consistently thinking ahead to prepare the region for the needs of tomorrow. Read more about our work »

Donate »