Click here to learn out more about the Reporter’s new findings on the Chicago region’s commuters in “More on the Road.”

The Metropolitan Planning Council released a new report on Chicago-area traffic congestion Tuesday morning at an event co-hosted by The Chicago Reporter and the Chicago Public Library. The report, called “Moving at the Speed of Congestion: The True Costs of Traffic in the Chicago Metropolitan Area,” shows that congestion costs the Chicago region $7.3 billion in wasted fuel, lost time and environmental damage each year. “We literally cannot afford to wait,” to address the issue, said MarySue Barrett, president of the council.

The Reporter’s Jeff Kelly Lowenstein spoke at the event as part of a panel that also included Paul O’Connor, former executive director of World Business Chicago, and Bob Dean, principal regional planner of the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning. Paul Nowicki of BNSF Railway Company moderated the discussion.

Kelly Lowenstein shared his new research, which found that the Chicago region has more people who spend at least two hours a day in their daily commute than it did in 1990. His research also found that, while congestion is a problem throughout the region, some groups bear a disproportionate share of the burden based on race, economic status and geography. Kelly Lowenstein also pointed to “Commuter Convert,” his profile of lifelong driver turned Metra advocate Nicole Lee. “It shows that change is possible,” said Kelly Lowenstein, adding that Lee’s story parallels an increase in use of public transportation nationwide.