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High gas prices easing rush-hour traffic
By Pat Driscoll
San Antonio Express-News
July 29, 2008
Americans cutting back on driving to soften the blow of high gas prices has loosened gridlock in San Antonio, Houston and some other major U.S. cities.
Rush-hour travel times dropped 2.6 percent from March to May compared to a year ago in 23 cities with traffic monitoring systems such as TransGuide, according to a recent Federal Highway Administration report.
The California cities of Riverside-San Bernardino and Sacramento led the way with drops of 7.6 percent and 6.6 percent respectively. Just two cities had increases.
San Antonio motorists spent 4.7 percent less time stuck in traffic, saving a little more than a minute a day, despite twice as many construction zones than a year ago. Houston drivers shaved 1 percent off commute times.
Traffic experts, including those who size up the profits and risks of toll roads, consider work commutes to be a mainstay of urban traffic. People will cut out some vacations, entertainment and even errands to save on gas but will make sure they get to work to keep the paychecks coming.
Nevertheless, as these numbers indicate, commuters are now finding other ways to get to work, such as switching to transit or sharing rides with other motorists.
Rush-hour traffic in the two dozen cities looked at was down 1.4 percent, said Texas Transportation Institute researcher Shawn Turner, who compiles the report for the Federal Highway Administration. Weekday traffic around the clock dipped up to 3 percent while weekend travel dropped up to 5 percent.
All travel on U.S. roads declined 2.4 percent from January through May, a federal report released yesterday says.
In a seeming contradiction, 6.2 percent more cars squeezed onto San Antonio’s highways during peak hours while travel times shortened. One reason could be that as jamming eases the roads can handle more traffic, Turner said. Of six hours a day that’s tracked, just under two hours were congested, down from just over three last year.
Or the figures could be off, Turner said.
“There’s a number of reasons that could be,” he said.
Yesterday’s report on all U.S. travel:
Other related reports:
• High gas prices no problem, toll-road officials say
• Rising fuel prices too much for transit
• High gas prices met by record drop in travel
• Drop in driving, and nagging questions
• Record oil prices just a start