The analysis, produced at the request of The Post, tracks fairly closely to observations by many drivers in The Post survey, who said they are spending less time commuting than they did in 2005.
“It absolutely was a factor,” said Jennifer Hoh, describing her decision to take a job with a 20-minute rush-hour commute in Reston. It took about an hour and a half on traffic-snarled roads to reach her previous job in Rosslyn.
“Now work is a nine-hour day,” she said. “When I was in Rosslyn, the commute made it a 12-hour day.”
Few things cause more conversation and more complaining than traffic congestion on roads overburdened by the swelling population in metropolitan Washington. The region almost always ranks in the top five — and occasionally rises to No. 1 —
when various experts rate the worst urban traffic in the nation
The Post survey found that although half the drivers polled said they get stuck in traffic jams at least several times a week, the average commute time dropped to 31 minutes this year from 37 minutes in 2005. That’s just minutes saved on a given day, but it adds up to more than 25 hours a year wasted in congested traffic.
Some of the relief may be credited to new roadways, including Virginia’s new high-occupancy toll lanes,
Maryland’s Intercounty Connector and completed connector roads from the new Woodrow Wilson Bridge. The fitful economic recovery and federal furloughs also may be keeping some wheels parked in the driveway.
High-occupancy express lanes, which predate the new HOT lanes, also have been effective in changing commuting habits.
The 31-minute commute time is still well above the national average of 25.5 minutes. Nevertheless, Inrix tracking data show that while congestion was up by 9 percent nationally in May, it has declined slightly on several key roadways in and around Washington.
Todd El-Taher of Alexandria bought a motorcycle five years ago so he could qualify to use high-occupancy express lanes on Interstate 395 for a thrice-weekly commute to Rockville. Now he also uses the HOT lanes that opened this year on the Virginia portion of the Capital Beltway. He estimates that riding the motorcycle saves him 30 minutes each trip.
“That drastically impacts the amount of time I spent on the road,” said El-Taher, 41.
Although 75 percent of area commuters get there by car, the survey revealed that commuters are open to alternatives. By about 2 to 1, there was a preference for options other than roads. Two-thirds of those surveyed said they approve of the District’s expansion of the bike lane network.