The 10 worst US cities for driving
The average American living in one of the 10 most congested cities in the U.S. wasted about 47 hours in traffic last year — roughly equivalent to 10 minutes per workday or a week's worth of vacation. That's according to a new report from Inrix, a Washington-based traffic-analysis company that studies road congestion in the country's 100 biggest cities. The news isn't all bad, though: Traffic can be a sign that there are more jobs.
"We call it the trafficonomy," says Jim Bak, author of the report. "More activity on the roads means more jobs and consumer spending. So there were slumps from 2008 to 2012, and now, we're seeing signs of life."
And where there are more job opportunities, there is more traffic. So if you're being recruited by a company in Boston, Austin, Bridgeport, or the seven other cities in this list, you might want to take into account the eight days you'll spend with a foot on the brake. Check out this slideshow of the 10 worst cities to have a morning commute, and a few tips for getting around the gridlock.
Well, this is no surprise. If you've ever spent time in L.A., you know that it lives up to its reputation for having horrendous traffic problems. Inrix measured that the average Angeleno driver spent 64 hours in traffic last year. That's a five-hour increase from 2012 and the equivalent to eight full work days. There are many reasons for the congestion, not the least of which is the fact that Los Angeles is technically a county of 88 cities, which makes it hard to implement traffic strategies across all of the jurisdictions. The county has also been slow to open new freeways despite consistent population growth over the past two decades.
Worst Corridor: The I-405 SB between Roscoe Blvd to Mulholland Dr.
Worst Hour: Wednesday mornings at 8 a.m.
Travel Tip: The early bird gets the worm. The 405, sometimes nicknamed America's Worst Freeway, will always be busy on weekday mornings, but if you get on the road before 7 a.m., you have a shot a breezier ride.
A thriving tourism market is one of the reasons traffic plagues Oahu's capital city. The island's steady population increases have caused housing shortages and driven up the prices of homes near the city. That means one thing: more commuters driving downtown from the suburbs. The average Honolulu driver spent 60 hours in traffic last year, up 10 hours from 2012. That's a whopping 30 percent increase in time on the road.
Worst Corridor: Along the H-1 Freeway from Aolele Street to Moanalua Road.
Worst Hour: Thursdays at 5 p.m.
Travel Tip: Traffic is worst between the area near the airport and downtown Honolulu. There aren't many large alternative roads, other than perhaps Route 92, so try to keep your daily travel outside of rush hour, if possible.
Some studies have tied the Bay Area's traffic jam rates with those of Los Angeles, but Inrix places San Francisco at No. 3 with drivers spending an average of 56 hours in traffic in 2013. That's an increase of seven hours from 2012. Unlike other cities, though, traffic in San Francisco is often worse on the weekends than the work week. Getting in and out of the city almost always requires using a bridge or tunnel, or getting through some sort of toll collection, that inevitably slows down traffic flow.
Worst Corridor: CA-4 WB between Lone Tree Way/A St and Somersville Road
Worst Hour: Thursdays at 7 a.m.
Travel Tip: If you can drive to a BART station and commute from there, do so. If you don't, adjust your travel times to avoid the surge.
Austin's surge in popularity is no secret. The quirky Texas city is affordable compared to many of the other cities on this list, and there's no state income tax.
“Austin is a perfect example of why cities with newly thriving economies encounter traffic issues," Bak says. "Austin has two universities, a strong tech industry, and a rapidly growing entertainment market. The population grew 6 percent last year, and the city estimates that about 100 people a week are moving to Austin. All good things, of course, but it’s also tough to meet that kind of demand in terms of infrastructure.”
In 2013, Austin drivers wasted approximately 41 hours in traffic on average, which is an increase of 3 hours from 2012.
Worst Corridor: I-35 southbound between exits 235A/Martin Luther King Blvd. and 237/Airpot Blvd.
Worst Hour: Thursdays at 5 p.m.
Travel Tip: I-35 splits into two decks (and upper and a lower) between Martin Luther King Boulevard and Airport Boulevard, north of downtown. The upper lanes are express lanes with no on-or-off-ramps, so use these if you don't need to exit between Martin Luther King and Airport Boulevards.
Between the hours of 7 a.m. and 7 p.m., traffic around the five boroughs is almost unavoidable. New York City drivers spent an average of 53 hours in traffic last year, up three hours from 2012. The reasons are fairly obvious: It's become extremely expensive to live in Manhattan and now, most of Brooklyn, so a large number of people live in the suburbs and commute in. But few New Yorkers bother with cars. If you're living and working in the New York area and haven't exhausted your options for public transit, try again. It's worth it.
Worst Corridor: The Cross Bronx Expressway between Baychester Avenue and I-87/Exit 1
Worst Hour: Fridays at 3 p.m.
Travel Tip: Train. Between MTA, Amtrak, Jersey Transit and PATH, there's a slew of ways to get into the city without enduring the Lincoln Tunnel.
Bridgeport, a city located in the southwestern corner of Connecticut, has a few stretches of highway heading southbound (which is actually west, toward New York City) that can set you back hours if you don't time them correctly. The city is a major throughway for commuters that live in Connecticut and work in New York, making I-95 a parking lot during rush hour. Bridgeport drivers spent about 42 hours in traffic on average in 2013, up three hours from 2012.
Worst Corridor: I-95 between exits 3 and 21, a stretch of more than 22 miles.
Worst Hour: Fridays at 5 p.m.
Travel Tip: Metro North Railroad and Amtrak both offer train routes along the Connecticut shoreline. Or, take the whipping Merritt Parkway, if you dare.
Traffic congestion in San Jose jumped by 25 percent between 2012 and 2013. That's a staggering figure, but it makes sense if you consider the skyrocketing housing prices in San Francisco and the booming tech industry in silicon valley. On average, San Jose drivers spent 35 hours in traffic last year (we'll skip the 'you'd think they'd have an app for that' joke). The Bay Area has added more than 600 miles of highways over the past two decades, but future expansion looks limited to carpool and toll lanes. The BART expansion into the South Bay should be completed in a few years.
Worst Corridor: US-101 between Lawrence Expy and De la Cruz Blvd.
Worst Hour: Thursdays at 6 p.m.
Travel Tip: It isn't unusual for companies to charter private buses to pick up commuters and bring them to work. Many, like Google, offer several busses a day so that commuters can skip rush hour for faster trips. If your company offers this, hop on.
Inrix pegs I-5 as the most clogged road in Seattle, and it's obvious why: The highway runs north-south through the heart of the city. Seattle drivers spent an average of 37 hours in traffic in 2013, many of which were surely concentrated on a the stretch of I-5 north of the city between Shoreline and Queen Anne.
Worst Corridor: I-5 between North 130th Street and Union Street.
Worst Hour: Fridays at 4 p.m.
Travel Tip: Since most of the traffic is in the suburbs just north of the city, try swapping I-5 for Route 99 which runs almost parallel into downtown.
Boston is highly aware of its traffic issues. After all, the Big Dig was proposed in the early 1980s to help solve just that. The project was abandoned in 2007, though, and things have just gotten worse. Bostonian drivers spent about 38 hours in traffic on average last year, up seven hours from 2012. With only a few major roads going into the city from the surrounding suburbs (which are huge), public transit is recommended.
Worst Corridor: I-93 between exits 6 and 15 (essentially, south of the city between Old and Inner Harbor).
Worst Hour: Wednesdays at 8 a.m.
Travel Tip: Take the T. As of 2012, there are no longer those strange, Medieval tokens, and the system is easy to navigate. If you must drive and are coming into the city from the south, try Route 28.