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According to data released today, Arizonans in the Phoenix metropolitan area wasted over 80 million hours of additional time stuck on the roads, and 57.2 million gallons of additional gas as a result of traffic congestion in 2007. Tucson residents wasted 17 million hours in traffic delays, wasting 10.9 million gallons of gas as a result of traffic. The wasted time and fuel cost Phoenix residents an equivalent of $1.9 billion and Tucson residents $393 million, according to the Texas Transportation Institute's Urban Mobility Report (PDF).
The report clearly shows how much worse traffic congestion would if not for public transportation within the metro area. Phoenix's bus lines prevented 2.6 million hours in additional delays compared to what they would have been if these lines hadn't provided options for commuters to travel without their cars, while Tucson prevented 571,000 hours in delays. Last year, public transit ridership in Phoenix increased 6.63% percent, while ridership increased 9.1% in Tucson.
According to Alex Nelson, representative of the Arizona PIRG Education Fund, "Traffic congestion is like a tax that we all pay, sapping our time and money. We need to give people better transportation options, particularly more and better public transit." Nelson added that, "each full bus takes dozens of cars off the road. Drivers across Arizona should urge better public transportation, even if they won't be able to use it themselves."
Traffic congestion worsened steadily since the report first began tracking travel time in 1982. Travel times for commutes have increased in each year of the study. In addition to the growing average length of commuting trips, drivers must allocate additional time to avoid being late because traffic problems are increasingly unpredictable.
"For decades, government has tried to fight traffic congestion by building more and wider roads, which just increases congestion at choke points." said Nelson. "Instead, we need to prioritize expanding rail and bus systems that reduce the number of drivers on the road and reduce our nation's dependence on dirty fossil fuels."
Currently, Arizona is facing increasingly tight transportation budgets that result in our state's dependence on sales tax revenues to pay for transportation projects. As a result, public transportation projects that are designed to reduce congestion are likely to be delayed without a change in funding mechanisms or sources.
Congress is scheduled to address funding for transportation priorities this summer before the current six-year transportation bill expires.
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