Commuter Blues (Tuff Luck for Those in LA, SF, DC Edition)


Those of you who drive to work don't need to read the papers to get this bit of news: Traffic congestion is way, way up on the nation's roadways.

Go here for a Google News sampling of stories generated by a new study that found

It took drivers 57 percent more time to get to their destinations during peak travel times than in non-rush periods because of traffic congestion. Researchers put the cost of worsening gridlock to the regional economy at more than $4 billion, or almost $1,000 per rush-hour commuter.

Road construction and mass-transit services are failing to keep pace with population growth in suburban areas, the report also noted.

The Los Angeles area had the worst congestion. After the Chicago area, rounding out the top five congested urban areas were San Francisco-Oakland; Washington, D.C., and suburbs

For a full article on the matter, go here.

And for some actual solutions to traffic congestion, check out the surface transportation page for Reason Foundation, the nonprofit that publishes Reason magazine and Reason Online.

NEXT: Barred From Work

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. While we’re trying to reduce our dependence on Islamic fundamentalist oil, I’ll point out that I personally waste about 1.5 gallons of gas a week sitting still on I-84 in an attempt to get to my job.

  2. My new house, closing next monday, will be, wait for it…wait for it…3 whole minutes drive from my office. Methinks I shall be walking when the weather permits.

    I wonder if there have been any studies done regarding not just the monetary cost, but also the psychological cost. I talked to my dad the other day while he was stuck in traffic outside DC, and the whole jist of his conversation was, “we’re all fucked, this is the end, please, son, don’t have children, don’t subject them to this world.” I know that I’d be a different person, mentally, if I had to sit in gridlock for hours each day.

    My friend commutes into DC on I-95 every day, and I think he’s got it dead-on: traffic is caused by motherfuckers who can’t drive, and especially by people who can’t merge. I was on 95 a couple weeks ago, and there was 8+miles of bumper-to-bumper. These crazy fucks would get off on the exit ramps or shoulders, drive up 10 or 15 car lengths, then try to merge back in. Others were all manic, switching lanes every 3 second, only to make it 5 cars ahead. Yes, I’m going to enjoy my peaceful walks to work. Indeed.

  3. Ha! This is one instance where it actually pays to live in Cleveland. My apartment: a whopping 5-minute drive from my job. It would probably take less time to bike it, in fact. (Naturally I would, if I didn’t have to deal with feral dogs, crack addicts, and bums)….

  4. Answer: Don’t be an early bird. Get a job where you can show up around 11 and leave around 8. I work in Chicago and live in a close suburb, and I had no idea traffic was so bad because I almost never get caught in it.

  5. Let’s see . . . the first seven miles of my commute on I-66 today, outside the Beltway, took me 21 minutes; once I was inside the Beltway, where it was HOV-2 only, it took my 12 minutes to go the remaining 10 miles.

    Everything Evan said above re: DC drivers is correct. These people do. Not. Know. How. To. Drive.

  6. smacky, I feel you. My wife and I used to live in Lakewood and work downtown — a comparable distance to where we live and work now in NoVa/DC — and even at rush hour it only took us about 15 -20 min. down Detroit to the Shoreway and into downtown.

  7. My car needs missiles, this is the obvious solution. It would also help if they wouldn’t undertake massive construction projects that cost a ton and cause traffic for 10 years during construction so that the project can be completely outdated by the time it’s done. See also: privatize the damn highways already.

  8. Phil,

    Even in heavy traffic, my commute is still less than 10 minutes. All I need to do is get to MLK and I’m virtually there.(I live in on the East side).


    You have the right idea about traveling during non-peak traffic times. I try to either get to work really early, or more often, arrive very late and then work late so that I can avoid the evening traffic (which is always worse, for some reason). It saves me a few minutes. The tradeoff: I don’t see the light of day from October-March.

  9. I live in the San Diego area, and just got a new job that’s almost a 30 mile commute. My traffic problems are mitigated by flextime. I can leave the house when there’s no traffic, and by the time I’ve put in my 8 hours the northbound traffic is gone.

    However, I want an apartment that’s as close to work as I can get. Not only does it save gas, but it means I can use alternate forms of transportation.

  10. crazy fucks

    That is precisely the reason I don’t drive. My life is all about minimizing annoyance – and my ten minute subway commute goes a LONG way toward that end.

  11. I also make the drive into DC on 66 every morning, starting from the Dulles Toll Road.

    Yes, it makes you a different person. I used to be able to bike to work in DC when I lived in Arlington. That was fantastic. Rolling along the C&O canal, watching the little ducklings swimming behind their little duck-mommies, swerving around the horse-poo, noticing the leaves on the trees, and the buds on the flowers.

    Not anymore!

  12. I currently can walk to my job in about 12 minutes, but I’m trying to get a new job that will be an hour’s drive away. Fortunately most of the drive would be on rural roads in Lancaster and Chester counties, PA.

  13. Hey JonBuck-

    I’m moving to San Diego in a month. How long does it take to drive to the downtown area from, say, Clairemont Mesa?

  14. Even though I grew up in Southern CA, I never had to deal with traffic in my professional career because I lived in NY and SF so I either took the subway or walked. Now that I?m back in LA, I learned the true meaning of road rage. Idiot drivers account for 90% of the traffic problems, especially when it rains (good god). Things I?ve seen in rush hour: women putting on makeup (including but not limited to eyeliner, closing your eyes while driving is always safe), people with illegal DVD screens watching movies while the drive and people reading the morning paper. All this, yet if I wanted to drink a beer in my car, and remain under the legal limit, to reduce the stress of driving with these douche bags, I would be the one going to jail. There is no justice in the world.

    Oddly enough, my drive isn?t too bad for a 25 mile commute, only 45 minutes. It becomes well worth it on weekends because I?d rather deal with traffic going to and from work than on my free time. The greatest traffic mystery to me is how the hell is Friday morning traffic by far the best traffic of the week, but Friday afternoon is usually the worst for most people? Doesn?t this violate the laws of commuter conservation?

  15. You’ve never witnessed bad merging habits until you’ve driven in Detroit. It’s not just the “racing-ahead/asshole” factor — for some reason, a whole bunch of people are convinced that waiting to merge until the last second is the most efficient way for traffic to flow.

    They don’t realize that IF EVERYBODY MERGES EARLY, when there’s an opportunity to do so, all will go better for everybody. Sure, the overall speed will be reduced a bit by the increased volume. But it won’t have to come to a dead crawl the way it does when cars are sitting at the end of the closing lane, causing others to completely stop to let them in.

    Outside of rush hour or construction traffic, however, there is one good thing going for Detroit driving: You can pretty much speed at will in the Motor City. Cops hardly man the freeways, and even when they’re there, they rarely pull people. Couldn’t tell you the number of times I’ve seen drivers here nonchalantly zooming past a cop car at 80-plus.

  16. This is one instance where it actually pays to live in Cleveland. My apartment: a whopping 5-minute drive from my job. It would probably take less time to bike it, in fact. (Naturally I would, if I didn’t have to deal with feral dogs, crack addicts, and bums)….

    And don’t forget the one million people just like Scott Savol.

  17. I hate driving so I principally work from home, biking to meetings when I can. I’ve had bought a used truck about a decade ago and it has less than 70,000 miles on it.

  18. My commute is currently about 3 minutes by car, and perhaps 4 by bicycle. Once I move to my new apartment, it will be just under 30 seconds on foot.

    Small towns do have advantages. Of couse, it’s an hour to the nearest art gallery.

  19. the regulator,

    Eeek! The mug shot was taken in the city that I reside in. That’s a little too close to home (same zip code). One thing’s for sure: he ain’t no idol.

    All that aside, why would I have to worry about people like Scott Savol (i.e. domestic abusers) on my commute to work? I thought they were called “domestic” abusers because they harm the people in their home, not complete strangers on their way to work(???)….

  20. So should I drive to work & buy Al-Qaeda-Supporter produced gas or ride my Chinese Prison Labor-made bicycle to work?

    Decisions, decisions.

    “Their celebrity was…..Gallagher!”

  21. “Scott Savol”? “The mug shot”? What are y’all talking about?

  22. Round about paragraphs 7-8, this essay about the “economics of war” by libertarian great David D. Friedman includes a discussion of why people sometimes rationally act like assholes in traffic:

    BTW, one of the reasons I’m so loyal to my employer is that I have a lot of flexibility in my working hours. If I were to drive in during morning rush hour, it takes me about 40 minutes. But if I don’t leave home until after 9 a.m., it’s a smooth 20 minutes, with no nerve-wracking stop-and-go traffic. In the evening, to avoid similar traffic, I never leave earlier than 6:30 p.m., which is fine. Saves me 3 hours, 20 minutes a week — or roughly a week of 24-hour days per year!

  23. The most retarded thing about this in DC is: the vast majority of white collar types already telecommute; we just do it from inside our offices!.

    There is almost never a day where I have to do anything that requires me or the people I work with to actually be present in the office.

    And there isn’t really a boss of any kind — we all just show up, get our work done, input our billable time, and leave. Nobody’s checking to make sure we punch in or punch out…. so why the hell are we here?

    I can see continuing to lease office space. We need to store files after all, and there are times I have to physically root through actual paper (until a vendor gets it all imaged anyway). And having the fancy-pants “DC Address” on the letterhead helps justify the hourly rates.

    But on a day to day basis, there is just no need to be here.

  24. Is this domino theory roughly correct?
    Public highways encourage cars.
    Cars demand gasoline.
    The demand for gasoline has put much money into the hands of our enemies.

    Here’s another string of dominos:
    Public highways have ruined–paved over–our countryside.
    Road kill is disgusting.

    And another: Highways and cars pollute the air.

  25. Mo-

    As dumb as LA drivers may be, the two times that I’ve driven in the Bay Area I’ve found the drivers absolutely insufferable. Not to mention that it seems like the right lane is constantly disappearing in the Bay Area. I’ll start off in the left lane, and within 10 miles I’ll be in the right lane without ever changing lanes.

    I guess that’s a metaphor for the Bay Area: However far to the left you think you are, up there you’re on the right 😉

  26. All that aside, why would I have to worry about people like Scott Savol (i.e. domestic abusers) on my commute to work? I thought they were called “domestic” abusers because they harm the people in their home, not complete strangers on their way to work(???)….

    With Scotty as the face of domestic violence, it might become unpopular and be replaced by street crime.

    SP — It’s all about American Idol. Keep up 🙂

    And to not seem too off topic, the backwater I live in (Salem, OR) was shocked SHOCKED to have passed Eugene in the gridlock numbers. 15 hours a year to 9. I guess Salemites hit the lights wrong more often.

  27. I commute in the opposite direction as everyone else. For instance, in the am, I’m going north into the ‘burbs and everyone else is coming south from the ‘burbs, so I have no traffic. Same thing in reverse in the evenings. However, I am going to be moving further away for a couple months, and my commute at that point will be hell.

  28. .. heh, heh, heh.. 24 miles each way .. about 25 minutes to do it .. two stop signs and a guard shack, and I run the stop signs ..

    .. I nearly always see wildlife .. couple of elk next to the road this morning ..

    .. not enough money in the world to get me to move into a city ..

  29. Note to the powers that be: ROADS. Build fucking roads. Fuck the environmental studies. The Black-throated Snail Cock is not going to get me to my job.

    I also acknowledge that imminent domain issues are touchy with libertarians, but I’m far less concerned about it being used for roads as compared to building a fucking mega-Walmart.

  30. not enough money in the world to get me to move into a city

    Me too – except in reverse. I work & live downtown. I wouldn’t trade that for my coworker’s 2 and 3 hour commutes any day. It seems to be the suburban types who work in the city who get the worst commute. Oh well.

  31. dead elvis:

    I’m posting from work right now. But I have to say that I’ve lived in the northern part of the county for most of my life, and this is the first real commute into San Diego (Kerney Mesa) I’ve had. That being said, from here I can take the 163 right into downtown. I’m not more than five miles from the city from here. Clairmont Mesa is about 4-5 miles farther away, I think…

    The major problem this county has is that there are really only two major freeways: The I-5 and I-15. And that’s all the geography will allow. In the next couple years they’re going to start a major widening project that will go all the way to the Orange County line. It’s sadly necessary.

    The economy here has been incredibly good, even though the recession a couple years ago we still had unempoyment rates of 4%. I believe it’s actually under that right now. The downside is that we’re no longer the sleepy, inexpensive military town that we were just ten years ago.

  32. Dead Elvis

    I’m a life long resident of San Diego. I hate to say it, but next to the 5; the 15, 163, 805 area where you’re talking about is probably the worst traffic in the city. During rush hour do get to Clairmont Mesa from downtown expect 30-60 minutes. Which isn’t that bad for SD in rush hour. Remember it always could be worse, you could be living in Temecula and commuting down to Downtown which is also very common. And takes 3 times longer.

  33. Thanks for the info. Since my wife won’t have to be at work until 9:20am or so hopefully the worst will be over by then.

  34. I commute in the opposite direction as everyone else. For instance, in the am, I’m going north into the ‘burbs and everyone else is coming south from the ‘burbs, so I have no traffic. Same thing in reverse in the evenings.

    Ditto, except I go south to the burbs and everyone else is coming north to the city. However, if the Mariners, Seahawks (MNF) or Supersonics are playing, I’m fucked.

    JonBuck, Mike and dead elvis, funny how I-5 is fucked on both ends! You have the whole central portion of I-5, from the grapevine to the Williamette valley except for a small length in Sac, free and clear, but then get double blasted on the ends with LA and SD in the south, Portland and Seattle in the north. With that said, its better to be dealing with it here, its nothing like LA, not even close! I once left Santa Barbara on a Wednesday at 11:00 AM to catch a 5 Pm flight out of LAX. I made it in time to catch the 7 PM flight.

  35. dead elvis:

    I wish I could say that was so. But alas, I had to be in Mission Valley by 9:30 this morning. I ended up taking the coast route (old highway 101) until I got to Del Mar. I’m certain that my average speed was better than going on the freeway going that route. It took me about 45 minutes to go 32 miles.

    I haven’t commuted enough days to really say what the average traffic is like (this is my second day on the job). But since I don’t have to start until 10:30-11 am I can get to work in less than a half hour.

    All the same, an apartment in Santee (less than ten miles from work) would be preferable.

  36. Bwah ha ha ha ha!!!! About three years ago I was living in Denver and I convinced my boss that I NEEDED to move to California and live on a boat, all without losing my job. Since he was delighted to get me and my crazy political ideas out of the office and save a bunch of money at the same time, here I am. My commute is maybe 4 feet from the quarterberth to the laptop at the salon table. In the last three years I’ve actually been in the office maybe 5 times. I had NO idea how much I would appreciate all the extra free time I have from not spending each morning and evening in the car. I feel like every day is two hours longer. Yesterday I filled up the gas tank in my truck for the first time since February. And my car insurance rates dropped through the floor since my vehicles are defined as “pleasure vehicles” now instead of commuters. On the other hand, whenever I drive into L.A. or Santa Barbara I daydream about murdering all those idiots puttering along in the passing lane without actually passing anyone. Those people ARE traffic. Get the hell out of my way!

  37. Telecommuting sounds nice, but between The Price Is Right and Jerry Springer I would never, ever get my work done.

  38. What is this?
    Road rage posting?
    Can we move on?

  39. yeah SB traffic is stupid, and it gets worse every mile you go south of capr/summerland (we’re in the middle of nowhere and people are doing 50 in the left lane: %&Q##*W$R%Q@(!$!(*#(*#(!)

    if you want to catch the 5pm out of LAX from SB, fly out of SB (don’t bank on catching morning flights out of SB as the fog is killer) though it’ll cost $$$. SB airport kicks serious ass, but for the fog and $$$: connections to LAX and Phoenix, glorified bus terminal, very easy to tell when your plane’s there, and no need to check in until 3 mins before departure. Only crappy thing is parking restrictions, as most of the parking lot isn’t far enough away given new restrictions.

    For travel between LA and SB; never leave before 9pm! Even then, HellA can give you the worst traffic jams at any time: i’ve been stuck in full gridlock at 12AM!!! idiots.

  40. “Note to the powers that be: ROADS. Build fucking roads.”

    They build roads. Your commute gets easier for six months. Because the commute is easier, more people move to your town. Your commute is just as congested as before, and now there is less undeveloped land in your town, more houses, and more businesses to serve those residents.

    If the goal is to make your town grow, and grow in a way that encourges people to drive, mission accomplished. If your goal is to get to work easier, not so much.

    How about, instead of building roads, the regional transit agency lets developers put up dense housing and shops on the surface parking lots that surround the commuter rail stations?

  41. I’ll wait in los angeles
    I’ll wait in the pouring sun
    No way
    For not anyone
    No way

  42. “Get out of my way. Get the hell out of my way.”

    — John Galt

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.