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Atlanta 4th Worst for Traffic (But Don’t Lose Hope Quite Yet)

A couple of weeks ago we reported that Atlanta was recently ranked 4th in the nation for road rage. Now our city has been handed another dubious distinction – 6th worst in the nation when it comes to traffic.

The report came from a study conducted through the Texas Transportation Institute (part of Texas A&M), but if you have ever driven in Atlanta rush hour then the findings surely came as no shock. According to the study, which ranked cities by the amount of hours that drivers had to spend in traffic delays, Atlanta drivers spent 135.3 million hours in traffic delays in 2007 alone. Though that sounds like a huge number, Los Angeles beat us out with a whopping 485 million hours idling. So the next time you are stuck in traffic, remember that it could be worse. You could be in L.A.

Other sobering statistics about Atlanta traffic included that Metro Atlanta drivers also used up 95.9 million more gallons of fuel in 2007 than they would have if it were not for traffic delays and that traffic delays cost us an estimated $3 billion.

But now for the good news, if you can call it good news. The Texas Transportation Institute’s “Urban Mobility Report” is based on data from 2007. A lot has changed since that year. Gas prices have fluctuated wildly and a recession has left many people jobless. Perhaps the results of a different Texas Transportation Institute study should come as no surprise: with fewer people going to work, the ones of us lucky enough to still have jobs have less traffic to contend with. Or as Bernie Fette from the Texas Transportation Institute put it:

“As goes the American economy, so goes traffic. There’s fewer people going to work.”

While the reasoning does make sense, who would have thought that traffic was a sign of prosperity?

On a more positive note, it seems that high gas prices actually drive people to use public transportation. MARTA, for instance, reported record breaking numbers of riders last summer when U.S. gas prices rose sharply. For awhile there, it seemed like Atlantans were going green. But the inverse also turned out to be true. When gas prices dropped again in the winter months, MARTA ridership declined, leading to budget worries for the transit agency that do not seem to be alleviating anytime soon.

While no statistics were available, there could also be more optimistic reasons for traffic decline in the past two years. As the push to “go green” gains steam, many people are asking their bosses to allow them to partially or fully telecommute. (Do you want to telecommute? Check out this blog post from Web Worker Daily on how to ask your boss to allow you to work remotely.) Other people, while victims of recession layoffs, are starting home businesses. There are whole communities, such as the Unintentional Entrepreneur devoted to people who have made lemonade out of this recession’s lemons. Specifically in Atlanta, people have been flocking to the Clean Air Campaign’s commute alternatives programs. Visit the Clean Air Campaign website for more information on traffic-busting options like carpooling and vanpooling.

How do you feel about Atlanta traffic? Have you noticed it receding in the past couple of years? And do you plan to take personal action to help alleviate Atlanta’s traffic, such as choosing public transit or telecommuting? We want to hear all about it in the comments.