Researchers at the Texas Transportation Institute have quantified what most South Florida drivers already know deep in their guts: they are wasting more time, money and gasoline than ever sitting in worsening traffic.
The bottom line for the average commuter in 2011: 47 hours standing still behind the wheel, an increase of an hour over the previous year.
The only good news is that it isn’t as bad as it could have been: South Florida traffic, bad as it is, just missed making the top 10 of the worst traffic areas in the country (the top three: Washington, D. C., Los Angeles and San Francisco).
The Sun Sentinel's veteran transportation writer, Mike Turnbell, looked at the data and found it’s taking us longer and longer to get to the same places.
In South Florida, a trip that typically should take 30 minutes when few cars are on the road often means planning for a trip that may take 1 hour and 48 minutes, based on a "planning time index" created by researchers. The index measures the amount of extra time needed to arrive on time, 19 out of 20 times, for high priority events like a family dinner, a meeting, a flight or a doctor's appointment.
The extra time is necessary to allow for the effects of unexpected crashes, bad weather and other irregular events that cause gridlock.
And the traffic even makes good news seem bad. The economy is recovering, and hooray for that, but it only means more and more people are now driving to work, protracting the commute for everyone else.
One more cheery figure to contemplate while awaiting the light change: The congestion is costing the region about 93 million gallons of wasted gasoline a year. That's about 25 gallons per driver.