Traffic Congestion Clogs Quality of Life

The West used to be the Big Sky Country, an area of wide open spaces, but all that has changed. Traffic congestion and the accompanying delays are a fact of life in many communities and for many U.S. adults. And, surprisingly, those living in the West find traffic even more onerous than those living in the East, Midwest or South. Just over one-third (37 percent) of Americans overall say that traffic congestion is a serious problem in their community, and in the West that figure jumps to more than half. In contrast, just 21 percent of Americans say traffic congestion is not a problem at all, according to a recent survey by Harris Interactive.

There are marked differences between regions when it comes to consumers' views on traffic. Just one-quarter (26 percent) of those who live in the Midwest and 32 percent of those in the South say traffic congestion is a serious problem. In the East, over one-third (37 percent) call traffic congestion a serious problem, and in the West those considering it a serious problem jumps to 56 percent. It is also a problem that has many Americans throwing up their hands in resignation. One-quarter of all Americans say traffic congestion is a serious problem that is not being addressed, while just 12 percent say it is being addressed.

Since approximately a third of consumers nationwide consider traffic congestion a serious problem, it begs the question: Would U.S. voters accept a congestion tax of the kind recently instituted in London? While the new levy has not led to armed rebellion in the U.K., Americans do not appear to be nearly as ready to embrace such a measure in their cities. Two-thirds (66 percent) of adults oppose such a tax with half (51 percent) saying they strongly oppose it. Just 22 percent say they support it. Even among those who say traffic in their community is a serious problem, most would not support such a tax. Only three in 10 (29 percent) of those who say traffic is a serious problem support a congestion tax while 61 percent oppose it.

Another method to limit energy use and deal with traffic congestion is by housing choice. Asked if they would be willing to pay a higher price for a new house that would reduce energy use and could also reduce their monthly heating and cooling bills, seven in 10 U.S. adults say they would be willing to pay more for such a house and only 19 percent said they would not be willing. Baby boomers and echo boomers (born between 1982 and 1995) are slightly more likely than other generations (73 percent and 72 percent, respectively) to say they would be willing to do this. People, however, were not asked how much more they would be willing to pay.

Interestingly, those who use public transportation are much more likely to say traffic congestion is a serious and unaddressed problem in their area, although the fact there is public transportation for them to use seems to address traffic issues. Still, over two in five (44 percent) of those who use public transportation to get to work call traffic congestion a serious and unaddressed problem. At the same time, fewer than one-quarter (23 percent) of those who drive themselves to work share this sentiment. According to the Harris Interactive analysis of the data, this may reflect the greater use of public transportation in larger cities.

Based in a large city himself -- Cleveland -- Driving Today Contributing Editor Luigi Fraschini writes frequently about traffic and other quality-of-life issues like the inability of finding decent pizza in California.