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The Ten Worst U.S. Cities For Traffic Congestion


Traffic in Atlanta, Georgia during rush hour (via Wikimedia)

Traffic in Atlanta, Georgia during rush hour (via Wikimedia)

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The grass, it seems, is always greener on the other side of the highway median. Ask any U.S. driver about his commute, and you’ll likely get a lengthy tirade about the abysmal traffic conditions on his daily drive.

Whether you live in Atlanta, Los Angeles, Spokane, New York or even Orlando, chances are that you dread the daily commute and believe that traffic is better anywhere else in the United States than in your city.

Thanks to the most recent Annual Urban Mobility Report from the Texas A&M Transportation Institute (TTI), we now know who’s got bragging rights for the latest year studied, 2011.

According to the TTI, traffic in Washington D.C. is the worst, with each commuter losing an average of 67 hours per year in traffic. Los Angeles and San Francisco are tied for second place, with each municipality taking 61 hours annually from its commuters.

In fourth place is Newark, New Jersey, lumped into one miserable bundle with New York, New York. Drivers here can expect to waste 59 hours sucking down exhaust fumes each year, which is quite a bit worse than fifth-place Boston (with a mere 53 hours annually).

To the surprise of no one living in Houston, the Texas city is next on the list, with 52 hours of wasted time yearly (which is also the national average for very large cities). Atlanta and Chicago tie for seventh place (with 51 hours each), while Philadelphia and Seattle split the final spot, taking only 48 hours from commuters annually.

To put the worst U.S. cities in perspective, the average American commuter wastes 38 hours per year in traffic, and needs to allow a full hour for a trip that, under ideal circumstances, would take just 20 minutes. Is it any wonder the vast majority of us are sleep-deprived and stressed to the breaking point, or that fatal accidents are again on the rise?

If there’s good news to be found in the latest survey, it’s this: traffic in 2012 still wasn’t as bad as traffic in the pre-recession days of 2007, but we suppose that’s because many Americans are still out of work. The relief on the roads is expected to be short-lived, however, as the TTI expects congestion to grow significantly in the coming years.
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Comments (4)
  1. These numbers do add up. Assuming 240 work days a year (48 weeks), 38 hours is less than 10 minutes a day. The absolute worse, DC at 67 hours a year, is just 17 minutes. For 38 hours a year to equal an extra 40 minutes a day, the commuter would have to go to work only 175 days. Tat's 35 work weeks in the year. If I only had to work 8 months out of the year, I might be ok with an hour commute.
     
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  2. Correction: These numbers DON'T add up.
     
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  3. Reread the entire article. The numbers do add up. It indicates incremental commute time relative to ideal conditions. In other words, it's the extra time wasted due to congestion. Not all variables were shared in the article, so trying to do math from it is futile.
     
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  4. Wayne, the data is from TTI, and the study (in all of its extended detail) is linked in the body of the article. While breaking it down over 240 days worked makes it seem insignificant, look at it another way - the average commuter will give up nearly a "full" working week (38 hours) sitting in traffic each year.
     
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