PEOPLE LIVING IN SOME OF THE hottest housing markets spend increasingly more time stuck in traffic, according to the 2005 Urban Mobility Report by the Texas Transportation Institute. The study concluded that Americans lost 3 billion more hours due to congestion in 2003 than in 1982.

Research engineer Tim Lomax says that the report “captures what happens with suburban development patterns in urban areas.” He says that there is no single solution to congestion, but that developers and builders can have a part in both the short-term and long-term strategies.

In the short term, Lomax says there are “small adjustments to how the neighborhoods are laid out” that can help reduce automobile reliance and therefore traffic. For example, the use of pathways to connect cul-de-sacs and common spaces throughout a neighborhood encourages people to walk or ride bicycles to their destinations. Wiring an entire neighborhood with hi-speed Internet could also make a difference because it would allow people to telecommute or work flexible hours, thus reducing peak travel.

In the long term, Lomax says the key is “changing how businesses and individual people see their roles in this [congestion] problem.” In essence, every stakeholder in the community needs to take ownership of at least part of the problem. Lomax suggests that developers and builders contact transit authorities, chambers of commerce, and city council officials to make sure they are aware of their communities'—especially the outlying ones–needs for public transportation. For example, some suburban communities that are not part of a metro transit authority contract shuttle bus services or organize carpools to get residents into main transportation hubs. In the end, “you get the impression that cities need to provide more options other than ‘here's the freeway, here's the big street, now get on it and spend an hour in traffic,'” say Lomax.