Saint Louis and Kansas City Enjoy Low Congestion, Commute Times
Recently, the Texas A&M Transportation Institute released a report on mobility in the nation’s urban areas, specifically focusing on congestion. According to the Institute, traffic congestion is a serious problem. For example, the mobility report states that:
“In 2014, congestion caused urban Americans to travel an extra 6.9 billion hours and purchase an extra 3.1 billion gallons of fuel for a congestion cost of $160 billion.”
Direct costs aside, traffic congestion make cities more difficult places in which to live and do business. The good news for Missouri is that both Kansas City and Saint Louis actually have relatively little traffic.
Of the 46 metropolitan areas in the United States with more than one million residents, Kansas City and Saint Louis ranked as the third and fourth least congested (by traffic indexes), respectively. In both cities, a trip that takes 30 minutes in off-peak periods only takes between 34 and 35 minutes during peak periods. In other words, rush hour isn’t really that bad in either city. Compare that to San Francisco or Los Angeles, where a 30 minute trip outside of rush hour will take about 43 minutes during rush hour.
And not all rush hours are created equal. In fact, Saint Louis might want to ditch the term altogether, because the city’s highways only experience 1.3 hours of congestion per day, meaning it’s more like “rush 40 minutes” in the morning and evening. That’s the shortest period of congestion for any large city in the United States. Compare that to Los Angeles, where the city experiences nearly 8 hours of congestion per day. It’s not your imagination, Angelenos—rush hour really does last all day.
Large City Average
Traffic congestion is correlated with a metropolitan area’s size, so Kansas City and Saint Louis benefit from not being among the nation’s largest metropolises. However, some very large cities (Atlanta, Philadelphia) have reasonably low congestion, while some cities with smaller populations (Portland, Austin) are among the top 10 most congested cities. A continuing commitment to expanding highways and eliminating bottlenecks (when necessary/possible) likely makes the biggest difference. As for Missouri’s major cities, very low levels of congestion are evidence of an adequate supply (or possible oversupply) of highway capacity. If accelerated population growth takes hold in either city, needs could quickly change, and it will be up to cities and the Missouri Department of Transportation to maintain the congestion advantages. But for now, Saint Louis residents should enjoy their “rush 40 minutes” with the knowledge that others have it much, much worse.