The report found that 96 of the nation's top 100 markets experienced a drop in traffic congestion levels in the first half of 2008 compared to 2007. Across the nation, there was a 3% decrease in peak commute hour travel. Also, 2/3rds of consumers surveyed said they changed their driving habits as a result of the increased fuel prices. The habit changes included everything from car pooling to using public transportation and alternative methods (such as bicycling).
The cost of gas increased from $2.29 in January 2007 to $4.09 in June 2008, but prices began to decrease in October. As of the week of October 10, 2008, the average price of gas nationwide was $3.30.
Income level was a determining factor in the behavioral change. Those earning less than $35,000 were most likely to decrease their driving compared to people earning more than $75,000.
"It is fascinating to see the disproportionate response that the impact of gas prices has on traffic, particularly how consumers changed their behavior more in markets like Atlanta, Las Vegas, Los Angeles and throughout the Midwest. You would think that major metros with significant public transit infrastructure such as in NYC and D.C. would have shown a much stronger correlation with gas prices through increased ridership,” said Bryan Mistele, INRIX founder and CEO. "Although we can't predict the future price of fuel, we can predict the potential impacts to traffic congestion. As a whole, the population appears to have made lasting changes to their behavior, which we expect to persist at some level even if gas prices revert to pre-2007 levels.”Springfield, MA was one of the cities that ranked in the Top 10 with the strongest and most significant correlation between gas prices and the Travel Time Index. Traffic decreased in Springfield 1.7%.