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L.A. and Orange counties No. 2 in U.S. for traffic delays

Commuter traffic might be a nightmare, but it’s not getting worse — yet.

Automobile commuters in urban areas are delayed an average of about 38 hours a year in traffic congestion, according to a just-released report from the Texas A&M; Transportation Institute.

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That average delay, according to the institute’s annual Urban Mobility Report, has remained about the same for the last couple of years. Of course, that’s not much solace to commuters.

“The statistics do not include meetings you might miss, or having to replace the dashboard or padded steering wheel because of frustration we take out on our cars,” said Bill Eisele, a senior research engineer with the institute who co-wrote the report.

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The delays in congested areas of Los Angeles and Orange counties were — no surprise — far worse than the national average. Local commuters spent an average of 61 hours a year in congestion.

That was not the worst among urban areas. That dubious honor went to Washington, with an average of 67 hours stuck in congestion for the average auto commuter.

L.A. and Orange counties and the San Francisco area were tied for No. 2, followed by New York, Boston, Houston, Atlanta, Chicago, Philadelphia and Seattle.

The 2012 report used statistics gathered in 2011. The institute has been compiling traffic data since 1982.

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Traffic was at its worst about seven years ago, Eisele said, then got somewhat better. Unfortunately, that was because the onset of hard economic times meant fewer workers needed to commute.

In 2008, gas prices started skyrocketing, and that also helped ease traffic congestion. “It’s tied to the economy,” he said.

That might not bode well for commuters.

“As things pick up with the economy,” Eisele said, “the congestion levels will get worse.”

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david.colker@latimes.com


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