Traffic congestion cost the Nashville region more than $1 billion in 2014.
That’s according to a report released Wednesday by Texas A&M’s Transportation Institute.
Nashville commuters spent nearly 39 million hours in morning and afternoon rush hour traffic delays last year, according to the report. The same measure in 2010 totaled 34.8 million hours lost due to rush hour congestion.
During rush hour, Nashville drivers take 20 percent longer on the roads than they would at non-peak hours of the day.
The report finds the average commuter in Nashville lost 45 hours in delays during morning and afternoon rush hour traffic in 2014 – nearly two days. By this metric, Nashville ranks No. 29 on the nation’s most-congested cities (Texas A&M looked at more than 470).
Such growth in commuter totals is consistent with the spike in traffic counts on Middle Tennessee’s highway system we reported in a July feature. As we’ve previously reported, mass transit is a foremost concern for Nashville’s continued ability to recruit companies and workers to the region. Even as more people flock to live in Nashville’s urban core, rising rent and housing costs stand to push lower-to-middle income workers further away from urban and Midtown job centers, a trend that would only exacerbate Nashville’s growing traffic.
Going back further in time, the total congestion delays for Nashville are more pronounced. In 1995, Nashville commuters spent nearly 14 million hours in delays due to rush hour congestion, or 34 hours per commuter.
Here’s how Nashville compared to other cities. Music City’s congestion figures were lower than Austin, which ranked as the 10th-most-congested city in the country. Austin drivers lost 52 million hours in rush hour last year, or 52 hours per commuter, according to the report. Austin was tied with Atlanta as far as hours lost per commuter (For as fearful we in Nashville seem to be of some day having Atlanta’s traffic problems, Atlanta’s congestion numbers lag considerably behind San Jose, San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York, and Washington, D.C. on Texas A&M’s report).
Yearly delays per driver in Nashville were slightly higher than congestion delays in Charlotte, San Antonio and Indianapolis. Interestingly enough, Denver, Portland and Minneapolis – cities many in Nashville point to as models which have rolled out mass transit successfully – all have higher congestion rankings than Nashville.
Another interesting data point from the study is a so-called “Planning Time Index.” Essentially, this looks at how much time you have to factor into your commute to ensure you arrive on time. In Nashville, for a drive that would take 20 minutes in light traffic, you need to plan more than 45 minutes during rush hour.
As mentioned, the cost of Nashville’s rush hour congestion is $1.013 billion, according to Texas A&M, when factoring in time value, the cost of diesel and gasoline.
The Texas A&M report found Washington, D.C. — the most gridlocked city in the country — experienced 82 hours of delay per commuter. That was followed by Los Angeles’ 80 hours of per commuter delays, San Francisco’s 78 hours, New York’s 74 hours and San Jose’s 67 hours.
The report drew its finding from data collected by Inrix on 1.3 million miles of urban streets and highways, in addition to Federal Highway Administration performance data.