Study: Many Of You Waste A Month Of Your Lives In Traffic Each Year

March 21, 2011

For the past several years, traffic researchers had noticed an unusual trend: declining congestion in metropolitan areas. Not surprisingly, the slide began in 2008 -- around the time that much of the world was hit with a double-wallop of recession and soaring gas prices. But now that national economies have begun to recover, traffic is worsening, and a new study from INRIX puts the news in perspective.

INRIX is a major traffic-services corporation. The data from its study of roadway congestion comes from a variety of sources, but most notably, it's provided by around 4,000,000 vehicles that INRIX services each day via its GPS contracts. Vehicles with INRIX-backed systems feed anonymous data to the company, telling researchers where they are, how fast they're moving, and other factors. INRIX then crunches those numbers to create its annual Traffic Scorecard.

Like its predecessors, the 2010 INRIX National Traffic Scorecard is an embarrassment of riches -- far more info than most of you probably want or need, so we're just going to give you the high points. If you'd like the full overview, you can find it at

  • Of the 100 largest metro areas in the U.S., the most congested in 2010 maintained their rank from 2009: Los Angeles was #1, followed by New York, Chicago, Washington, D.C., and Dallas.
  • The bottom five didn't shift much, either: Cape Coral/Fort Myers, Florida was #100, followed by Lakeland/Winter Haven, FL, Bradenton/Sarasota/Venice, FL, Modesto, California, and Palm Bay/Melbourne/Titusville, FL.
  • Traffic in Los Angeles was worse than anywhere INRIX studied, including markets in Europe.
  • On average, travel times for all drivers have increased 10% over the past year.
  • If you drive in the ten most-congested travel corridors -- which generally span New York and Los Angeles, with stretches of Chicago and Pittsburgh thrown in for good measure -- you are now spending a whopping one month of your life in idle traffic each year.
  • The worst time to travel is on Friday between 5pm and 6pm. (Yet another reason to skip out early at the end of the week.)
  • Worst of all: the U.S. economy has yet to full recover from the recession. When employment levels return to those of 2007, the country's roadways will need to accommodate an additional 9,000,000 daily commutes. If gas prices rise high enough, however, the impact might be slightly mitigated.

For more information, check out the full press release from INRIX below, or visit

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America Back on the Road to Gridlock According to the INRIX National Traffic Scorecard

Study Shows Drivers Spend More Than a Month Every Year in Traffic on the Nation’s Worst Corridors; L.A. Tops U.S. and Western European Cities for Worst Traffic

INRIX®, a leading provider of traffic and navigation services, today released its 4th Annual INRIX National Traffic Scorecard revealing gridlock and longer commute times returning to America’s roads. Traffic congestion increased nationwide for 11 consecutive months in 2010 with drivers experiencing increased traffic congestion nearly every hour of the day. The 150+ page report is available as a free download at

“America is back on the road to gridlock,” said Bryan Mistele, INRIX president and CEO. “Population growth combined with increases in interstate commerce spurred by economic recovery are fueling these increases. With only 150,000 new jobs created in our nation’s urban centers last year, we can expect even worse gridlock when the 6 million jobs lost in the recession return to the nation’s cities.”

Despite only modest employment gains in 2010, drivers are experiencing an average 10 percent increase in travel times. If unemployment drops to 7 percent by 2012 as economists’ predict, 9 million more daily work trips will jam our nation’s road network. In fact, 70 of the Top 100 Most Populated Cities in the U.S. are experiencing increases in traffic congestion. Nine cities already have surpassed their 2007 peak. By analyzing traffic on major highways in the nation’s 100 largest metropolitan areas in 2010, the Top 10 most congested U.S. cities are:

1. Los Angeles: On Thursday at 5:30 p.m., the average trip takes 71 percent longer than normal

2. New York: On Friday at 5:15 p.m., the average trip takes 47 percent longer than normal

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