SA Express-News, BY VIANNA DAVILA STAFF WRITER
The good news: The U.S. has largely recovered economically since the 2008 recession. The bad news: In the last seven years, your morning commute has probably gotten worse, and it’s costing you.
Traffic levels have returned to pre-recession levels, as more people returned to work and, in Texas, the population continued to surge, according to the 2015 Urban Mobility Scorecard, released Wednesday by the Texas A&M Texas Transportation Institute and INRIX.
In San Antonio, drivers spent about 44 hours in traffic last year and they lost about $1,000 in fuel and wasted time. That’s up from 2009, the year after the recession hit, when Alamo City motorists lost about 39 hours a year because of congestion and about $923 due to wasted fuel and time.
The San Antonio urban area ranked 33rd in the nation for annual delay per peak auto commuter in 2014, a measure of how much time was wasted during peak hours, from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. to 7 p.m.
However, drivers in San Antonio continue to squander less time stuck in traffic than those in other Texas cities: Austin drivers lost 52 hours because of congestion last year; Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington motorists lost 53, and Houston drivers lost 61.
The problem was nationwide: 95 of America’s 100 largest metro areas saw increased traffic congestion from 2013 to 2014. That compares with 61 cities with more congestion from 2012 to 2013, according to the scorecard.
Generally, in San Antonio, what would be a 20-minute trip on a major road, like Culebra or Broadway, takes an extra five minutes because of congestion, the report showed.
There are times, though, when something happens on a freeway — a major accident, bad weather — that can cause a significant delay. That’s called the freeway planning index. In San Antonio, that means about once a month, a freeway trip that’s normally 20 minutes could take more than 40 minutes.
When that kind of major delay occurs, drivers may have to take alternative routes. The numbers indicate San Antonio drivers have decent alternatives compared with other cities — the Alamo City was ranked 51st on the freeway planning time index, compared with Houston, 12th, Dallas, 23rd, or Austin, 25th.
“You have options when there is a major problem,” said David Schrank, co-author of the mobility report.
However, San Antonio has seen vehicle miles traveled — the actual number of miles vehicles are driven in a given year — grow astronomically. More than 21 million miles were traveled on city freeways every day in 2014. That’s up from about 12 million miles a day 20 years ago.
Those numbers are indicative of population growth and a thriving economy, Schrank said. San Antonio also sits at the crossroads of Interstates 10 and 35, both major freight corridors. The city has also expanded a lot of its major highways, some of which is to handle growth, but it also can spawn more growth, he said. firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: @viannadavila