Vehicle Miles Traveled & Traffic

Miles Traveled & Hours of Delay

Worsened more than 1 percent from
2016 to 2017

How are we doing?

Vehicle miles traveled (VMT) and hours of delay received a thumbs-down because vehicle hours of delay per commuter continued to rise and daily freeway VMT by San Diego commuters increased slightly from 2016 to 2017. Estimated daily freeway VMT increased by 0.4 miles per commuter in 2017 while those same commuters are spending more than 19 hours a year in traffic, nearly an hour more than in 2016. San Diegans travel more vehicle miles annually per commuter than the state average and other major urban counties.
See more information.

San Diego freeway vehicle miles traveled (VMT) increased slightly with preliminary numbers estimating 28.8 miles per commuter in 2017 compared to 28.4 miles in 2016. San Diegans (in green) have the highest VMT compared to other major California urban metro areas.

*2017 data is preliminary
Data Sources: California Department of Transportation, Mobility Performance Report, 2018; U.S. Census Bureau, 2016 American Community Survey 1-Year Estimates, 2017

Why is it important?

  • Reducing VMT and hours of delay can help the economy and boost personal comfort. Research shows housing values increase in walkable neighborhoods, and savings on fuel costs can go into the local economy. It also allows for spending more time with family and friends, improving health and quality of life.
  • More VMT adds to air pollutants and greenhouse gas emissions. See the Climate Action section for more information.

Estimated San Diego County vehicle hours of delay per commuter continued to rise from 18.8 hours annually in 2016 to 19.2 hours in 2017.

Data Sources: California Department of Transportation, Mobility Performance Report, 2018; U.S. Census Bureau, 2016 American Community Survey 1-Year Estimates, 2016

  Idea for Change

One way businesses and government agencies can encourage employees to switch to carpooling and transit use is by offering a "parking cash-out" program. Employers offer workers a cash stipend to cover commuting costs in lieu of free parking, cutting the expense of building or leasing parking spaces. Studies show that when instituted, significant percentages of employees will make the shift, resulting in reduced air pollution and traffic congestion.

  Bright Spot

Transit-oriented development is important in increasing public transit ridership, reducing vehicle miles traveled and decreasing greenhouse gas emissions. Adopted in 2016, San Diego’s Affordable Homes Bonus Program reported early success in 2017 with increased applications for development of new multifamily housing with increased affordable units. In exchange for additional affordable units, developers are allowed greater unit density and relief from off-street parking requirements in areas near transit systems.

  What are we measuring?

We have measured annual change in daily average freeway miles driven per commuter in select counties since 2006, as well as monthly average hours of delay for San Diego County commuters since 2012. Learn more about the data. Learn more about the data.