Downstate Commuters Lose Over 100 Million Hours Annually
An analysis released today by the Partnership for New York City calculates the cost of traffic congestion in the New York metropolitan area as $20 billion a year. Unless something is done to reduce traffic, the New York economy can expect to lose more than $100 billion over the next five years, enough to fund the modernization and maintenance of the MTA mass transit system for the next two decades.
The study was conducted by global engineering firm HDR for the Partnership, which is the city’s leading business organization. The findings represent a substantial increase in congestion since the Partnership and HDR conducted a similar analysis in 2006 , at which time the cost of congestion was $13 billion a year. The current study indicates a 53 percent increase in damaging traffic conditions in just over a decade.
A certain level of traffic congestion is evidence of a healthy local economy, but there is a tipping point where “excess congestion” creates real damage to the economic health and productivity of a region. In downstate New York, the study found that 44 percent congestion is considered excess congestion and is borne by business and individual commuters, local residents and visitors.
The biggest factors in the growing cost of congestion are commuting time and work-related travel time. The money-value of this time totaled $9.17 billion last year for the New York City metro area. Commuters working in downstate New York counties lost 113.3 million hours to congestion at an average cost of $767 per person . Lost business revenue totaled $5.85 billion across the New York City metro area, increased business operating costs totaled $2.42 billion, and excess fuel and vehicle operating expenses amounted to $2.54 billion.
“Regional population growth contributes to traffic congestion, but also accelerates the strain on transit and road infrastructure. Solutions require an integrated strategy for infrastructure investment and traffic mitigation,” stated Kathryn Wylde, President & CEO of the Partnership. “London, Stockholm and other world cities are far ahead of us in managing congestion and raising new revenues for roads, bridges and mass transit projects through congestion pricing. It is time for New York to cut its congestion losses by adopting a pricing program.”
“The primary source of traffic congestion across the region are the Manhattan central business districts, where a quarter of regional economic activity is concentrated. The congestion generated by traffic going to and from Manhattan, however, spreads the traffic problems to surrounding communities, with workers in Queens suffering the highest number of car commuting hours lost due to excess congestion. Reducing gridlock in Manhattan is the only way to trigger relief on congested roadways throughout the region,” Wylde continued.
The Partnership worked with HDR to complete this study, which updates a similar report from 2006. For the purposes of this analysis, the New York City metro area is defined as New York City, Nassau, Suffolk, Putnam, Rockland and Westchester counties and Northern New Jersey.
 Includes the effect of inflation on the cost of excess congestion.
 Excludes Northern New Jersey.