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High Gas Prices = Less Traffic

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On: Tue, May 29, 2012 at 11:54AM | By: Chris Weiss

High Gas Prices = Less Traffic

I remember back when I got my first car, gas reached a jaw-dropping low of $0.89 a gallon and hovered between there and $1.00 a gallon for quite some time; $1.50 was almost unthinkable. Between having a new, pristine license and the low cost of pumping up, I used to just drive and drive - no real destination, just pick a direction and go.

I don't do that these days. I drive when I have to and stay home when I don't.  And it appears like a lot of people are using that strategy during these times of sky-high gas prices. A new study shows that traffic has taken a major fall over the past year.

According to the Traffic Scorecard released this week by Inrix, a leading provider of traffic information, United States' traffic plunged by 30 percent in 2011. That's particularly drastic considering that traffic rose in 2009 and 2010, not exactly great years for gas prices or economic conditions, either. 2008, which saw a record high in gas prices, saw a similar drop in traffic (34 percent).

Inrix blames the struggling economy, lack of jobs and high gas prices for the traffic decrease. It finds that traffic dropped in 70 of the country's 100 most populated cities, with a correlation between the cities with above-average gas prices and large traffic drops. Honolulu, LA and San Francisco all hit $4.25 per gallon or higher last year, while the national average peaked at $3.96, and were among the cities with the largest traffic dropoffs.

"The declines in traffic congestion across the U.S. and Europe are indicative of stalled economies worldwide,” said Bryan Mistele, INRIX president and chief executive officer, in a statement. "In America, the economic recovery on Wall Street has not arrived on Main Street. Americans are driving less and spending less fueled by gas prices and a largely jobless recovery."

On the other end, some cities that showed increases in traffic had average/below average gas prices and/or employment gains.

Of course, decreased traffic doesn't mean no traffic. In fact, though Honolulu, LA and San Francisco showed some of the largest drops, they were 1, 2 and 3 respectively in terms of US cities with the worst traffic. The study finds that those that traveled the worst corridors in the US tacked on up to 60 hours over the course of the year due to backed up afternoon commutes. Those that drove rush hours on the worst traffic corridors spent up to three weeks of their year sitting in traffic.

If you're interested in seeing the worst cities and stretches of road for traffic, hit the link for Inrix's full press release.


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