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INRIX National Traffic Scorecard Special Report Reveals the Impact of Changing Fuel Costs on Traffic and Consumer Driving Habits in 2008

INRIX®, the leading provider of traffic information, today released its INRIX National Traffic Scorecard Special Report, showing the effects of fuel prices on consumer driving behaviors and traffic across the country. Have consumers changed their driving habits as a result of fluctuating gas prices? Which cities have been affected the most by the surge in fuel costs earlier this year? At what price per gallon will consumers reach their boiling point? What impact on traffic and consumer behavior can we expect, particularly with the current economic crisis, as gas prices fall or rise in the future? This new free special report, The Impact of Fuel Prices on Consumer Behavior and Traffic Congestion, available at, answers these questions and many more.
The INRIX National Traffic Scorecard Special Report features an analysis of traffic patterns during the first half of 2008, correlation of traffic against fuel prices, as well as a Harris Interactive Survey, conducted in October 2008, of over 2,000 consumers about their behaviors and attitudes. Along with hundreds of significant findings, the report reveals:
• 96 of the nation’s top 100 markets (by population) had drops in traffic congestion levels in the first half of 2008 compared to 2007, with a 3% nationwide average decrease in travel times during peak hours
• The largest and most congested U.S. cities did not respond the same to changing gas prices. Fuel prices had significantly higher influence on traffic in Los Angeles, Atlanta, Miami, Las Vegas than in NYC, D.C. and Chicago.
• Two-thirds of consumers surveyed changed their driving behaviors as a result of higher gas prices, of whom 69% took fewer driving trips, 34% said they took shorter trips, 9% carpooled, 8% traveled by bike, scooter, etc. and 7% used public transportation as an alternative choice to driving regularly
• 75% of Midwesterners decreased their amount of driving, compared to those in the Northeast (60%), South (67%), and West (61%)
• A majority (55%) were willing to reduce the frequency or distance of vacations by car if prices rose to $4.50 per gallon or more
• Females (69%) were significantly more likely than males (63%) to report a decrease in driving as a result of higher gas prices
• The average retail price of gasoline increased dramatically from $2.29 in January 2007 to $4.09 in June 2008, however prices began to plummet in the third quarter with an average of $3.30 during the week of October 10, 2008
The INRIX Special Report identifies how correlations between the change in gas prices and traffic congestion are due to a combination of socio-economic, political, demographic and psychographic factors. For example, the report highlights that the impact of increasing gas prices on traffic congestion has a close relationship with the average monthly expenditure on gas as a proportion of average monthly income. Across all income levels, clear majorities of survey respondents reported a decrease in their driving. However, mirroring the cities with the highest correlations, there is an inverse relationship with income level and the percentage who answered this way. Those making less than $35K were most likely to have decreased their driving 76%, compared with 68% of those earning $35K to $74.9K, to just 57% for those earning $75K and higher.
“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.”

The Top 10 Ranking of U.S. cities with the strongest and most significant correlation between gas prices and the Travel Time Index:

City 2008 Gas Increase % of Gas Increase Traffic Decrease %
1. Atlanta, GA $ 0.85 31% -4.4%
2. Miami, FL $ 0.80 28% -5.5%
3. Las Vegas, NV $ 0.72 25% -1.9%
4. New Orleans, LA $ 0.82 30% -1.2%
5. Springfield, MA $ 0.77 28% -1.7%
6. Daytona Beach, FL $ 0.79 28% -1.9%
7. Orlando, FL $ 0.78 28% -2.1%
8. Memphis, TN $ 0.79 30% -2.0%
9. Charlotte, NC $ 0.81 30% -2.3%
10. Riverside, CA $ 0.78 25% -7.8%

Los Angeles, the worst congested city, ranked 20th, while surprisingly, Chicago ranked 47th; Washington, DC 53rd; and New York came in 69th in terms of correlation of fuel price changes on traffic. Atlanta had one of the largest increases in gas prices in the country, but demonstrated remarkable capability to absorb expanded commuter travel on public transport by adding parking lots to accommodate all the new transit users and in some cases renting space from movie theaters and churches. Many cities exhibiting high correlation are those most impacted by vacation or leisure travel, particularly driving destination sites such as Miami, Orlando, Las Vegas and Daytona Beach. In Las Vegas, visits have been postponed or cancelled by over one-third of Southern California gamers who drive to Las Vegas, both as a function of the travel cost itself and also a function of reduced disposable income available for gaming trips, according to a recent survey by Precision Opinion.

INRIX is continually looking to find trends that will help consumers, businesses and public officials better understand the many issues that can affect the flow of traffic and how to solve these problems in the future. In June 2008, INRIX published its annual INRIX National Traffic Scorecard. The 120-page report was the first of its kind to rank and provide detailed information on the 100 most congested U.S. metropolitan areas and the 100 worst traffic bottlenecks, all based upon calendar year 2007 traffic information. This Special Report released today compares INRIX traffic information for January through June of 2008 versus the prior year. The Scorecard was created through extensive analysis of nearly 50,000 miles of primary roadways, using INRIX’s traffic data warehouse of the most recent and accurate data available anywhere. Special reports to the INRIX Scorecard focus on trends affecting traffic and will be released periodically.
For the latest fuel prices, INRIX partnered with OPIS (Oil Price Information Service), the world’s most widely accepted fuel price benchmark for supply contracts and competitive positioning, and reviewed 2007-2008 average national gas prices against its extensive real-time, historical and predictive traffic information.

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