California Cities and the Nation in the Costs of Commuting

Los Angeles—Orange County and the San Francisco Bay Area are the top two areas in the country for time spent in jammed traffic.  We report on California and the US in the 2019 Urban Mobility Report.  These include hours per year spent in slowed traffic, the costs based on the average wage, the fuel wasted, and the extra time that has to be allocated to make sure that you arrive on time.

The 2019 Urban Mobility Report is at, and is from the Texas A&M Transportation Institute using data from the INRIX traffic monitoring company.  The Report is authored by David Schrank, Bill Eisele, and Tim Lomax.  The data are from 2017.

Nationwide, 8.8 billion extra hours were spent in traffic.  This burned 3.3 billion gallons of fuel.  At $3 per gallon, that would be $10 billion dollars.  The cost in equivalent median wages would be $166 billion.  Trucks are 7% of the traffic, but 12% of the cost, giving $12 billion.

The average auto commuter lost 54 hours in the year, or about one per week, 21 gallons of fuel, and $1,010 in wasted time and fuel.

Part of the increase in traffic over the last 5 years is from increasing jobs by 8%, up from 142.5 million in 2012 to 153.2 million in 2017.

In Large Areas of over a million people, the time wasted increases to 71 hours per year.  Congestion exists 6 hours a day.  The average cost in these areas is $1,330 per year.  In these areas, 54% of the delays are on freeways.  33% of the delays are during the lower traffic times of midday and overnight.

Extreme and Severe delays occur in 30% of trips.  Heavy delays are on 25% of trips, and Moderate delays are on 34% of trips.  Only 11% find lighter or uncongested (1%) traffic.

In 2025, eight years further than 2017, the congestion cost is expected to grow 20%, the delay time 14%, the wasted fuel 9%, the average consumer cost 13%, and the average commute waste up 15%.

We list the top six cities of very large or large size, and then just large California cities, ordered by the most average hours lost.  The TT Index is a ratio factor of how much extra time one must allot to make sure that they get to your destination on time, for a 20 minute trip.  Then we show the average extra fuel burned per year in gallons, and the average total lost money at the median wage, per commuter.  The Los Angeles – Long Beach – Anaheim area seems to also include Orange County.  Riverside is joined with San Bernardino. 

(Rank). Area.      Hours.   TT Index.      Fuel.      Cost

(1). LA-LB-OC.       119.       1.51.           35.       $2,440

(2). SF-Oakland.   103.       1.50.           45.       $2,390

(3). DC-VA-MD.    102.       1.35.           38.       $1,840

(4). NY-NJ-CT.        92.       1.35.           38.       $1,780

(5). San Jose.            81.       1.45.           32.       $1,500

(6). Boston NH-CT 80.       1.30.           31.       $1,440

(11). Riverside-SB   70.       1.34.           20.       $1,180       

(16). San Diego.      64.       1.35.           24.       $1,440

(75). Fresno.           40.       1.16.            19.          $710

(91). Oxnard.          34.        1.16.            11.         $650   

(99). Bakersfield.   24.        1.13             10.        $460

The 119 hours for LA-LB-OC is three weeks of wasted and unpaid time added to a typical 50 week work year, which is 6%.  It is also three weeks of very stressful driving.  SF-Oakland and Washington DC – VA – MD put in two and a half weeks extra on jammed roads.  Of course, the average wages in these top areas also average higher than the US median wage.  The median wage was taken as $18.29 per hour for a commuter, or $36,580 for 2,000 hours or 50 weeks at 40 hours a week.  Trucker time was taken at triple that rate.  The stop-and-go traffic exposes drivers directly to harmful emissions, at higher concentrations than normal driving.

About Dennis SILVERMAN

I am a retired Professor of Physics and Astronomy at U C Irvine. For a decade I have been active in learning about energy and the environment, and in lecturing and attending classes at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) at UC Irvine.
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