Congestion costs Philly $152 million a year - WHYY

A pedestrian threads his way through snarled traffic at Broad and Chestnut streets. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

Philadelphia drivers have a reputation for road rage and SEPTA just gave them a new reason to be ticked off.

A new study commissioned by the transit agency found local households are paying a de-facto congestion tax of $260 a year. The unofficial tariff comes in the way of time and revenue lost to sitting in traffic, according to the study done by EConsult Solutions, a Philadelphia-based consulting firm.

EConsult studied the impact of clogged streets on SEPTA’s service and the city as a whole. The firm studied Center City, between Vine and South, from river to river, and found drivers and passengers experience 9.7 million hours in delays a year. This equates to a total loss of $152 million a year.

The agency describes the report as the “economic case” for fighting congestion with increased parking enforcement and other measures, including unarmed traffic safety officers.

The study shows only the “cost to SEPTA’s direct operating budget, but also…the cost to the overall economy,” said Erik Johanson, SEPTA’s director of innovation.

The report comes out less than a week after City Council held a bill that would have increased parking fines. The higher fines were intended to deter drivers from the bad habits that contribute to congestion.

The increased fines were opposed by council people who viewed them as an unfair toll on drivers.

Mike Carroll, the city’s deputy managing director for the Office of Transportation, Infrastructure, and Sustainability, says it’s important to acknowledge that congestion, too, has a price.

The study “really does confirm some hunches that people have had about the impacts of congestion,” he said.

The $152 million in lost productivity affects cars and buses, the latter of which experience higher delays. Cars experience an average delay of 28% between Monday and Friday while SEPTA buses experience an average delay of 77%—nearly three times more.

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