Why climate change is about to make your bad commute worse
Something remarkable happened on American roadways during the early days of the coronavirus pandemic: In even the most congested cities, traffic started moving again. With Americans staying home, cars suddenly rolled over highways like water through a freshly unclogged pipe. By mid-April, traffic had fallen to just 52 percent of pre-pandemic levels, according to traffic research firm INRIX.
But the reprieve was short-lived. As states and cities reopened their economies, drivers restarted their vehicles. By late June, INRIX reported, travel nationwide had already reached pre-pandemic levels, and in many states traffic was actually exceeding those levels.
That’s bad news for motorists, who lost an average of 99 hours to congestion in 2019 — two hours more than just two years prior.
Most motorists are familiar with many of the reasons for bad traffic: more cars on the road, unskilled drivers, construction, inadequate mass transit, crashes. Increasingly, however, there’s at least one more culprit to consider: climate change.
“America’s transportation system is not set up to recover and regain functionality after a major disruption or disasters,” said Paula Pagniez, director of the Climate and Resilience Hub at global risk management firm Willis Towers Watson. “Both chronic and acute changes in weather impact America’s roads, bridges, tunnels and transit.”
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