Texas Congestion Hasn’t Gotten Better or Worse Over 32 Years of Data

In a long-running practice of tilting at windmills, the State of Texas pours billions of dollars and concrete every year to continue growing the massive webs of impervious surface (roads) attempting to address the perceived problem of congestion.

Traffic crashes are a much bigger problem than congestion, costing the people of Texas at least twice as much.  Even so, the State of Texas has repeatedly funded partnerships between TXDOT and TTI to produce annual reports highlighting the problems of congestion and advocating for meeting a perceived need for more spending on road expansions.

Meanwhile, Texas Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs) use circular logic in developing their Regional Transportation Plans (RTPs) based upon regional growth forecasts that assume the road building proposed in their previous RTP – allowing for the dire predictions of all day rush hour and infinite need for more road spending.

This comprehensive, cooperative, and continuous advocacy for spending has been extremely successful at focusing public perception and the legislature’s attention to the “problem” of congestion, which hasn’t budged a bit, while crashes continue to impose a varying, horrible, and greater cost on Texans.

A public input process is currently open for TXDOT’s proposed 2019 Unified Transportation Plan (overview presentation) (full draft UTP), which will guide transportation planning and spending across the state for ten years. The following table shows the performance metrics that will be used to allocate at least $2.5 billion to combat congestion.

Zero consideration of the traffic death impacts. Zero consideration of enhancing connectivity. Zero consideration of whether these projects will help the economy or environment. $2.5 billion tilting at windmills.

Has congestion really gotten worse, creating a need for all this investment in trying to stop it? Furthermore, has the state’s massive spending on road-building meaningfully addressed or reduced congestion costs?


No. It appears that congestion costs each Texan about $500 a year and it has stayed amazingly consistent since 1982, according to our analysis of the 2015 TTI Urban Mobility Scorecard data.

We calculated the total cost of congestion for each metro included in the report, which contains data from 1982 to 2014 for the 100 largest metros in the country (including ten in Texas). Separately, we parsed 2014 data from across Texas, which included 22 additional metros. The smaller metros have a theoretical 2014 congestion cost of $1,094,000,000, or 8% of the statewide problem. We used this data to extrapolate the Texas-wide congestion cost for previous years.

Texas transportation policy for the 21st Century needs to do a lot more than continue to fling concrete at this old paradigm when there are more pressing concerns. The Texas Department of Transportation should be allowed to invest all available funds using meaningful, multi-modal performance measures to meet the goals and priorities of the state of Texas, including preserving the lives and limbs of Texans as the highest priority.

There will be a public hearing on the UTP on August 7, 10am in Austin at ENV Conference Room, 118 E. Riverside Dr., Austin, TX 78704. You can watch and participate in this meeting via webex:

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Password: XxGkmJd4

or by calling in on a telephone:

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855-437-3563 (US toll free)
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You can also submit comments using these methods:

Leave an online comment or print a comment form and mail it to:
Attention: Peter Smith
P.O. Box 149217
Austin, TX 78714-9217

To assist the Texas legislature, Governor, and local elected officials in transportation policy and funding decisions and balance the annual lobbying for congestion-focused spending, Farm&City is seeking funding to develop a companion report for the much bigger problem of traffic safety, highlighting the 100 deadliest roads in Texas. Let us know if you are interested in sponsoring Vision Zero Texas. This project is on hold until we find funding, as it will be a substantial, yet extremely important effort.