Denver, CO

Denver workers spend more time commuting than national average

Heather Willard

Heather Willard / NewsBreak Denver / Jan. 13, 2023

(Denver, Colo.) Commuters in the Denver-Aurora-Lakewood metro area lose 54 hours annually on average to get to work, according to data released in the INRIX 2022 Global Traffic Scorecard.

On average, American drivers lost 51 hours in traffic last year, up 15 hours from 2021 but well below pre-pandemic levels. Workers who returned to the office in the Denver area lost 14% less time to road congestion than in 2019, but it cost drivers $912 annually, up from an average cost of $631 last year — the national commuting average cost was $869 in 2022, up $305 from 2021.

According to the INRIX scorecard, this cost the Denver economy $1.2 billion last year.

“2022 was shaping up to be a year of re-emergence and a return to a new, post-pandemic behavioral norm, but that halted with the rise in oil prices, supply chain disruptions, and inflation,” said Bob Pishue, transportation analyst at INRIX. “Despite geopolitical and economic uncertainties, we continued to see a rise in global vehicle miles traveled, a return toward traditional morning and evening peak commutes, growth in public transportation use, and continued gains in downtown travel.

“However, we have yet to fully rebound to pre-pandemic levels, and while we do anticipate a gradual increase over the coming years, we may see a small decline in 2023 should a global recession strongly take hold,” Pishue concluded.

Denver drivers had the 17th highest congestion rate (down from 15th in 2021) and ranked 69th worldwide. Chicago was the top U.S. city for congestion, and London remained the world’s most congested city for commuters for a second year in a row.

During peak hours, speeds fell from 29 mph in 2021 to 26 mph. Off-peak speeds also fell, after remaining steady at 36 mph in 2019 and 2021. Drivers most commonly traveled 34 mph during off-peak hours in 2022. This pattern was reflected in travel speeds around the downtown core, which fell from 16 mph in 2019-2021 to 14 mph in 2022.

According to U.S. Census Bureau statistics, 17.9% of workers worked from home in 2021 versus 5.7% in 2019, a more than 200% increase. Yet employers and employees appear to have switched to a more hybrid model since the INRIX study found.

However, in a year-over-year comparison, 9% more trips were recorded going to Denver’s downtown area.

Additionally, traffic fatality rates across the U.S. rose 19% compared to 2019, and Colorado was not immune. Traffic fatalities rose to 736 in 2022, according to the Colorado Department of Transportation, rivaling the state’s record of 743 set in 2002.

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Public safety reporter in DougCo, Denver metro. Previously: Pueblo Chieftain public safety reporter, Athens Messenger associate editor. Caffeine fiend, cat mom and lover of all things spooky.

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