These Are the U.S. Cities Where Drivers Spend the Most Time in Traffic

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These Are the U.S. Cities Where Drivers Spend the Most Time in Traffic


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When it comes to traffic, drivers can fall into a variety of categories. Maybe you’re someone who dutifully sends in reports to your map service provider. Maybe you actively try to employ driving strategies that make traffic less likely for other people. Maybe your concerns revolve less around arriving late to your destination and more around keeping your kids occupied during that extra car time. There’s one reaction to traffic that’s universal, though: We all dislike it.

If you really hate traffic, you might even consider moving somewhere with less of it overall. Let’s look at data from the Texas A&M Transportation Institute and INRIX to figure out which cities have the worst traffic, which can help you make your big decision to moveor just serve as comfort that someone in some other city has it worse than you do.

Which cities have the longest traffic delays?

The 2021 Urban Mobility Report breaks down the most recent traffic data for major, medium-sized, and small cities into annual person-hours of delay per commuter. Akron, Ohio, for instance, is labeled a “medium average” urban area, and the average commuter there experienced 27 hours of traffic-related delays in 2020. Notably, in 2019, the average Akron commuter experienced 38 hours of traffic-related delays. (We can assume the decrease here was due to COVID-19 lockdowns and the rise of the work-from-home era, especially given most cities in the report experienced similar decreases from 2019 to 2020.)

Here are the top 10 “very large” cities and regions where drivers experienced high delays in 2020, including how many hours of delay the average commuter there had:

  1. New York City and surrounding area: 56 hours
  1. Boston and surrounding area: 50 hours
  2. Houston: 49 hours
  3. Los Angeles, Long Beach, and Anaheim, Calif.: 46 hours
  4. San Francisco and Oakland, Calif.: 46 hours
  5. The Washington, D.C./Virginia/Maryland area: 42 hours
  6. Dallas/Fort Worth/Arlington, Texas area: 40 hours
  7. Chicago, Ill.: 39 hours
  8. Atlanta: 37 hours
  9. Philadelphia: 37 hours

Here we have the top 10 “large average” areas:

  1. Austin, Texas: 41 hours
  2. Sacramento, Calif.: 38 hours
  3. Oklahoma City: 35 hours
  4. Kansas City, M0.: 34 hours
  5. Providence, R.I.: 33 hours
  6. St. Louis: 33 hours
  7. Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minn.: 32 hours
  8. San Antonio: 32 hours
  9. Portland, Ore.: 31 hours
  10. San Jose, Calif.: 31 hours

Here are the top 10 worst “medium average” areas and cities:

  1. The Bridgeport-Stamford area of Connecticut: 40 hours
  2. Albany and Schenectady, N.Y.: 33 hours
  3. El Paso, Texas: 32 hours
  4. Hartford, Conn.: 31 hours
  5. New Haven, Conn.: 31 hours
  6. Buffalo, N.Y.: 29 hours
  7. Colorado Springs, Colo.: 29 hours
  8. Fresno, Calif: 29 hours
  9. Worcester, Mass.: 28 hours
  10. Akron, Ohio: 27 hours

“Small average” areas aren’t spared traffic agonies, either. Here are the top 10 worst of those:

  1. Little Rock, Ark.: 33 hours
  2. Jackson, Miss.: 29 hours
  3. Beaumont, Texas: 28 hours
  4. Corpus Christi, Texas: 28 hours
  5. Madison, Wis.: 28 hours
  6. Poughkeepsie and Newburgh, N.Y.: 26 hours
  7. Greensboro, N.C.: 25 hours
  8. Stockton, Calif.: 25 hours
  9. Boulder, Colo.: 23 hours
  10. Brownsville, Texas: 23 hours

Trends to note

As mentioned, traffic delays for average commuters went down across regions of all sizes from 2019 to 2020. There isn’t any more recent data to show what traffic looks like coming out of the pandemic, but we can still look at a few trends in the data we do have.

While New York City and its surrounding areas were ranked #1 among very large areas in most hours of traffic-related delays per average commuter in 2020, the area was actually #4 in 2019. First place went to Los Angeles, Long Beach, and Anaheim, Calif. that year, with Washington, D.C. taking second (and sixth in 2020). Trends across regions shift pretty notably from year to year, so prioritizing a potential new hometown based on traffic alone isn’t a winning strategy.

And don’t think that just because a city is smaller in size, its traffic is better than the big guys. Commuters in San Diego (a “very large average” area) averaged 24 hours of delays in 2020, while Little Rock, Ark. (“small average”) saw about 33. Smaller population sizes don’t translate perfectly to less time in traffic. You also have to consider infrastructure, public transportation access, and whether residents need to travel a long way for work or to reach major hubs, on average.

That being said, of all the areas examined for this research—20 in each size category—the one with the fewest traffic-associated delay hours was a “small average” one: Indio and Cathedral City, Calif., where commuters experienced an average of just six hours of delay in 2020.

   

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