Traffic Congestion Dips as Economy Falters

US sees two-year congestion decline for first time ever
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jul 8, 2009 8:40 AM CDT
In this July 3, 2008 file photo, traffic stacks up on the eastbound Santa Monica Freeway in Los Angeles.   (AP Photo/Kevork Djansezian, file)
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(Newser) – Drivers are spending less time stuck in rush-hour traffic for a second straight year, the first-ever 2-year decline in congestion. Blame high gas prices and the economic downturn, which have forced many Americans to change how they commute. In individual cities, Los Angeles traffic is getting better but is still the worst in the nation. Washington's is getting worse and now ranks second.

The average US driver languished in rush-hour traffic for 36.1 hours in 2007, down from 36.6 hours in 2006 and a peak of 37.4 hours in 2005, according to a study out today. Total wasted fuel also edged lower for the first time, from 2.85 billion gallons in 2006 to 2.81 billion, or roughly 3 weeks' worth of gas per traveler. Records go back to 1982.