By Meg Garner via Nashville Business Journal
Sorry, Nashville drivers: You might as well mark at least one day off your calendars because you’re going to spend more than 24 hours in your car this year sitting in traffic.
Nashville is the 23rd most-congested city in the United States, with drivers spending 34 hours stuck in traffic annually, according to a new study.
Those 34 hours also translate into a cost in lost time to drivers of $1,308 apiece, and costs the city an estimated $517 million a year in direct and indirect costs associated with those delays, according to the study by Kirland, Washington-based Inrix. Inrix is best known for its traffic mobile app.
The calculations for annual direct and indirect costs to cities break down this way: Direct costs relate to the value of fuel and time wasted, while indirect costs refer to freight and business fees from company vehicles idling in traffic, which are passed on to consumers through higher prices.
For its 2016 scorecard, Inrix changed its methodology, so the results can’t be directly compared to previous scorecards. But a sampling of the 2015 data showed Nashville’s traffic troubles are up from the previous year, according to an Inrix researcher, who said it would be inaccurate to attach a specific number to that increase.
To be sure, things could be worse. For instance, Nashville’s favorite peer city, Austin, is now the 13th most-congested city in the country, with drivers spending 47 hours a year crawling along or at a standstill during their commutes. Their traffic troubles cost drivers of $1,453 apiece, with an estimated $810 million a year in direct and indirect costs for the city as a whole.
Unsurprisingly, Atlanta also ranks high on the list, coming in at No. 4, with drivers spending 71 hours in congestion annually. This costs drivers more than $1,800 each year, with an estimated $3.1 billion a year in direct and indirect costs for the city as a whole.
Los Angeles tops the list, with drivers spending more than 104 hours each year in congestion, costing them more than $2,400 each year. The city as whole also pays a big price tag for its congestion, at more than $9 billion annually.
The new study comes at a major crossroads for not only Middle Tennessee, but also the state as legislators grapple with how to deal with the Tennessee Department of Transportation’s $6 billion infrastructure backlog.
Gov. Bill Haslam revealed his hotly anticipated transportation funding plan in January, which includes both tax increases and cuts to cover the backlog, but his plan is currently facing growing pushback as the legislative session gets fully underway.
For instance, Wednesday was slated to be a big day for the governor’s bill, as it was scheduled to make its debut before the House Transportation subcommittee; however, the committee adjourned without discussing the governor’s plan.
On a local level, Middle Tennessee officials are searching for their own opportunity to fund their half of the region’s $6 billion mass-transit overhaul, called nMotion. The plan — if fully funded and built over the next two dozen years — would extend transit service within a half-mile of 1.55 million jobs in Middle Tennessee, which is more than triple the reach of the region’s existing system. It includes improvements to infrastructure, expanded bus routes and light rail.