Operations Performance Measurement Program
photos of traffic merging on a multi-level freeway interchange, traffic near a construction zone, variable message sign, train at a crossing, traffic on a river bridge, and a rural highway
21st Century Operations Using 21st Century Technologies

Urban Congestion Trends and Related Reports

FHWA's Office of Operations has released several national reports to communicate recent trends in congestion as well as strategies to manage congestion and improve mobility. These reports provide a snapshot of congestion in the United States by summarizing recent trends in congestion, highlighting the role of travel time reliability in the effects of congestion, and describing efforts to reduce the growth of congestion.

The following reports are available:

One of the key principles that the FHWA has promoted is that the measures used to track congestion should be based on the travel time experienced by users of the highway system. While the transportation profession has used many other types of measures to track congestion (such as level of service), travel time is a more direct measure of how congestion affects users. Travel time is understood by a wide variety of audiences—both technical and non-technical—as a way to describe the performance of the highway system. All of the congestion measures used in these reports are based on this concept.

The reports pays particular attention to the concept of travel time reliability—how consistent travel conditions are from day-to-day—and strategies aimed at improving reliability. The variation in travel times is now understood as a separate component of the public's and business sector's frustration with congestion problems. But the day-to-day variations in travel conditions pose their own challenges and the problem requires a different set of solution strategies. The topics covered in the reports include:

  • Characteristics of congestion and travel time reliability;
  • Significance of reliability to travelers;
  • Recent trends in congestion, especially reliability;
  • Evaluations of strategies that address congestion problems; and
  • New tools and initiatives for dealing with congestion.

Additional information on Travel Time Reliability Measures describes the concept and why it is important.