Report: Tampa drivers lost 87 hours — plus $1,200 each — because of traffic last year

Tampa ranks 17th among major U.S. cities for hours lost in congestion, with drivers wasting more time in traffic than the year before.
Backups like this one on I-75 in Tampa contributed to drivers in the city losing an average of 87 hours of their lives last year in traffic congestion, according to a new survey. [Times (2008)]
Backups like this one on I-75 in Tampa contributed to drivers in the city losing an average of 87 hours of their lives last year in traffic congestion, according to a new survey. [Times (2008)]
Published February 19

TAMPA — Congestion cost Tampa commuters an average of $1,216 each and nearly four days of their time in 2018, according to the latest annual scorecard by INRIX, a global traffic-data firm.

Tampa traffic is far from the worst in the country, ranking 17th among major U.S. cities for hours lost in congestion. But the situation here for motorists is getting worse at a faster rate than most other areas on the list.

A Tampa driver who commuted at the slowest time of day lost 87 hours last year in traffic. That’s an 11 percent increase from 2017. All of the 10 most traffic-congested cities, except Pittsburgh, saw their hours in traffic decrease or stay the same. Within the top 25, only Nashville and Orlando saw a greater increase than Tampa in the same time period.

READ THE REPORT: INRIX 2018 Traffic Scorecard Report

Beth Alden, executive director for Hillsborough Metropolitan Planning Organization, said those numbers correlate with other data she's seen on travel time reliability.

The Florida Department of Transportation evaluates how much longer it takes drivers to go somewhere during peak hours and heavy congestion than is expected for that corridor, a measurement it calls “travel time reliability.” The state has a reliability goal of 75 percent for its interstates, and Tampa falls short of that goal at 71 percent, Alden said.

"We are in a downward trend in terms of reliability," she said. "It means we have to budget more time to get where we have to go, particularly if it's a hard deadline, like picking up your child from day care."

While congestion can be a sign of a growing economy, it also comes with a cost — both in time and dollars — to a city and its drivers.

“It means that we end up spending more time in traffic and less time doing the things we’d like to do,” Alden said.

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The lost time cost the city of Tampa about $1.5 billion, the scorecard said. INRIX's data also showed that it takes 5 minutes to travel one mile downtown during peak hours.

While Tampa traffic congestion is significant, it is not the worst in the state. Miami drivers lost 105 hours in congestion last year, costing each driver an average of $1,470 and the city about $4 billion, according to the INRIX scorecard.

Boston traffic was the worst nationwide, with an average of 164 hours of delays last year. Washington, D.C., Chicago, New York and Los Angeles rounded out the top five.

Contact Caitlin Johnston at cjohnston@tampabay.com or (727-893-8779). Follow @cljohnst.

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