In a poll of every person who has ever driven a vehicle, 100% of the respondents agreed that they don’t like traffic. It’s not hard to see why, as for many of us, traffic seems to get our blood boiling like no other irritation. Perhaps it’s the simple fact that we lose so much time, money, and effort sitting in traffic, or, rather, the simple fact that there is no discernible reason for the slowdown. No matter the cause, traffic is a menace that we all look to avoid whenever possible. Unfortunately, living in a city means you are going to be exposed to some of the worst traffic in America. That said, there is significant variation within the country from city to city, so let’s take a look at some of the worst traffic cities in the US.
The Nation’s Capital Tops the Country in Traffic Times
US traffic congestion is highest in the same city where political congestion is also the highest, Washington D.C. The nation’s capital dubiously boasts the most congestion of any major US city, with an average time lost by a commuter sitting in traffic each year totaling more than 67 hours. While, on its face, that may not seem like a lot of time, that’s over 1.5 weeks worth of lost productivity sitting in traffic, getting a whole lot of nothing done. To make matters worse, that averages out to 32 gallons of gasoline a year, and an average productivity loss of nearly $1,400. Combine that with releasing 631 pounds of CO2 into the air per vehicle, and it’s easy to see why traffic is considered a big problem in the nation’s capital.
Other Metropolises Continue to Have Traffic Woes
The poster child for any rant and rave on US traffic is always Los Angeles, whose eight lane superhighways, snarled with cars and trucks, are splashed all over the internet and TV as part of the plight of the average commuter and lack of mass transit in the county. This is for good reason, as LA is home to the second worst worst traffic in the US in 2013, with over 61 hours spent sitting and staring at the back bumper of the vehicle ahead of you. Most of LA’s problems in this department come from urban sprawl, which prevents mass transit options from being cost-effective, due to having to cover such a large area. With no easy solutions in sight, and a diminishing return on building even more lanes of highway, traffic here is predicted to get worse by the year.
Boston is one of the few cities in the nation that, while still suffering from terrible traffic, has actually seen a reduction in jams the past few years. As a city built before automobiles, Boston has one of the most notoriously car-unfriendly layouts in the nation, with narrow twisting one-way streets that can confuse and frustrate even the most experienced of drivers. The ‘Big Dig,’ the largest transportation engineering project ever undertaken, was completed in 2005, and there has been a reduction in traffic congestion since most of the major routes in the city were rerouted underground. Though improved, you can still expect to sit for over 50 hours on those same roads, as congestion here is still a major problem.
If you are looking for respite from traffic, but still want to live in a major city, the advice in general is to head west. Here, many cities were just beginning to grow and plan as the automobile came to prominence, and grids, timed stoplights, and wide lanes help ease the congestion. Unfortunately, even in the best planned city, traffic is bound to be a problem, due to the car’s inherent inefficiency in moving people from point A to point B. If you really want to avoid road rage the next time you head into work, your best bet may be to take public transportation, which could help save headaches for you and others trying to beat the traffic on the roads.