The High Cost of Traffic: Dollar$ and Sense


We have all felt it and dealt with it.  Some of us deal with it every day of the work week, weekends included:  Traffic.

Traffic also has a cost that can be estimated in dollars, and hopefully that will lead to some common sense.

Wherever you reside, chances are you know when you need to leave by to avoid the brunt of traffic.  But sometimes, you haven’t a choice, and you are stuck with the slow crawl towards your destination.

In my case that destination is through one primary intersection both coming and going.  And sometimes it can take 15 minutes or more to travel the final three miles.  That is not the way coming home should ever feel.

Searching high and low on the internet, you will not find much of substance in dealing with traffic.  We know the familiar things that are often offered to resolve it.  Time(as in it will be years before we can do something), Technology( as in if we install cameras along the entire route and we upgrade all the traffic signals). and Mass Transit( because buses which serve people who generally do not own cars, and drivers keep on driving), I found one thing missing: cost analysis.

I did find two stories of interest to me.  One was a story detailing from the Texas Transportation Institute the cost of traffic delays.  The story dates back to 2011, which makes me think that despite the high toll it takes on us, we have more or less resigned ourselves to suffer with traffic.

Here are some of the findings from the CBS Moneywatch Story:

1) Commuters in large urban areas spend roughly 40% more on average or $1,166 per    year twiddling their thumbs in traffic. And remember, these are 2011 dollars.

2)  The cost of wasted time and fuel?  $16 per hour for cars and $106 per hour for commercial trucks.

That is quite a sum of money over the cost of the year.  And if those numbers are valid, then could I build an estimate of what just one intersection (State Bridge and Georgia 141 in Johns Creek, GA) costs drivers just during rush hours (the three peak hours in the morning and the evenings)?

The intersection of State Bridge and 141 is a major intersection.  It just might be the busiest intersection in the Metro Atlanta area that is not limited access and is controlled by a traffic light.  I have diligently searched the Georgia DOT Traffic Server for a busier one, but I have yet to find it. I encourage you to check it out and see what you can learn about your traffic as well.  You can find it here:

The data for most survey locations is only collected once a year, so be sure to look back at previous years to confirm that the data you are using seems reasonable.  And the data does not reflect intersections, so the method I chose to calculate the intersection volumes was calculated by taking the volumes from the mornings and evening rush hours and adding them together.  For 141 I took the two measurement locations North and South of the intersection, and determined the average of the two.  For State Bridge Road, I used the location East of 141 as the West location is not current.

Morning Rush Hour:

The volume North-South on 141 totals 10,436 vehicles between 7:00 a.m and 9:59 a.m.

The volume East-West on State Bridge totals 9,320 vehicles between 7:00 a.m and 9:59 a.m.

Evening Rush Hour:

The volume North-South on 141 totals 11,763 vehicles between 4:00 p.m and 6:59 p.m.

The volume East-West on State Bridge totals 9,320 vehicles between 4:00 p.m and 6:59 p.m.

The total going through the intersection then is approximately 19,756 in the morning period and 21,664 in the evening period for a total of 41,420 vehicles.

And if you were wondering just how many for the entire day?  It’s likely averaging over 101,000 vehicles per day.


Below is a table which will give you an idea of just how much this traffic is costing us depending on just how much time you feel it is taking you extra to travel through the intersection.  A backup heading northbound on 141 at the Chattahoochee River could indeed take you more or less 15 minutes.

Note that even two minutes per day has a significant cost.

Cars per Day 41,420 41,420 41,420 41,420
Minutes Wasted 2 5 10 15
Minutes Wasted per Day 82840 207100 414200 621300
Hours Wasted per Day 1380.66667 3451.66667 6903.333333 10355
Cost per Hour $16 $16 $16 $16
Daily $22,091 $55,227 $110,453 $165,680
Weekly $110,453 $276,133 $552,267 $828,400
Annually $5,743,573 $14,358,933 $28,717,867 $43,076,800

These are rather large sums of money that we are wasting each workday.  Even if you disagree with the $16 amount, hopefully you are worthy of minimum wage:

Cars per Day 41,420 41,420 41,420 41,420
Minutes Wasted 2 5 10 15
Minutes Wasted per Day 82840 207100 414200 621300
Hours Wasted per Day 1380.66667 3451.66667 6903.333333 10355
Cost per Hour $7 $7 $7 $7
Daily $10,010 $25,025 $50,049 $75,074
Weekly $50,049 $125,123 $250,246 $375,369
Annually $2,602,557 $6,506,392 $13,012,783 $19,519,175

There may be some different ways to calculate this cost.  The State of Michigan has a Construction Congestion Analysis Spreadsheet to calculate the cost of delays for traffic due to construction. Perhaps it could be adopted for our purposes.,4616,7-151-9625_54944-227053–,00.html



Common Sense:

As the costs are rather staggering when computed, it really only makes sense to begin tackling these problems today, and not waiting another 2, 3 or even 5 years.  These are real dollars coming out of our pockets today.  We have not even tacked on the emotional costs of getting to your child’s swim meet or ball game.  Some things do not have a price tag.

Governments, however, look at this slightly different.  If they have to pay for it what is the return on THEIR investment?

I believe that answer is simple.  Less congestion equates to higher property values, higher levels of commerce and a safer and happier community.

Higher property values and higher levels of commerce leads to higher tax revenues.

Recently, the City of Johns Creek announced that it had received an improved rating for the Johns Creek Fire Department, which will safe the citizens close to 20% in future insurance premiums.  They could have chosen to have a Fire Department that was rated slightly lower at a lower cost and saved some dollars.  They chose not to for many reasons.

This was a solid investment on behalf of the citizens of Johns Creek to this point.  And that is the sort of investment I want to see dealing with the traffic issues.  The return on investment is even higher than what we saw with the Fire Department.  And this is just one intersection.

As everyone here knows, we have several others as well.

You have a responsibility as well.  You need to realize that this is a worthwhile investment and contact your officials and encourage them to act now, not later.

The money you save will be your own. Let’s work to saving the green and getting the green.

These are my opinions.  I want to hear yours.

Leave me a note and I will be happy to respond.





This entry was posted in Johns Creek, Traffic and tagged , by EJ Moosa. Bookmark the permalink.

About EJ Moosa

EJ Moosa believes that a smaller government is a more efficient government. He believes that better analysis leads to better solutions. A graduate of Georgia State University In Business Administration, EJ grew up in Cobb County,GA, graduating from Osborne High School and worked at several Atlanta companies including First Atlanta, IBM, and Six Flags over Georgia.

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