Flawed Traffic Study Ranks Cities Most Choked by Traffic Jams

“D rivers in the car-crazy California metropolis spent 104 hours each driving in congestion during peak travel periods last year. That topped second-place Moscow at 91 hours and third-place New York at 89, according to a traffic scorecard compiled by Inrix, a transportation analytics firm.”

Flawed Traffic Study Ranks Cities Most Choked by Traffic Jams

Five of the top ten cities in the world are located in the United States, according to this article released from the Associated Press — but the results are flawed because “Inrix said it analyzed 1,064 cities worldwide across 38 countries to come up with its rankings. Since Inrix doesn’t gather its own data in either China or Japan, cities in those countries were not ranked.”

Nevertheless, here is the ranking of the ten most congested areas in the world — without including such metropolitan areas as Shanghai or Tokyo:

  1. Los Angeles
  2. Moscow
  3. New York
  4. San Francisco
  5. Bogota
  6. São Paulo
  7. London
  8. Atlanta
  9. Paris
  10. Miami

Some Traffic Experiences

Ranking congested areas in the world overall is rather difficult because there are myriad factors to consider — including the time of day, the roadways which are used, and the options of alternate routes, which are only three of those factors.

That Los Angeles ranked at the top in the world is no surprise to me based on my experiences. I remember one time driving in the left lane on the San Diego Freeway near the Santa Monica Freeway — Interstate 405 and Interstate 10 respectively — attempting to head northbound; but both directions were stopped. I thought to myself that I could roll down the window and actually have a conversation with a motorist heading in the opposite direction.

I will also never forget driving from Fresno to San Diego on the day before Thanksgiving one year. There was greater than five hours which I will never get back…

…and despite the plethora of highways weaving through the greater Los Angeles metropolitan area, there are rarely better alternative routes, as one highway after another seems to be clogged with traffic — and not just during peak times, either. I simply shake my head in amazement.

I remember being stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic on the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway at 3:00 in the morning. Remembering a time when that highway had no congestion is quite difficult for me; but at least motorists are treated to spectacular views of Manhattan while crawling along what is also known — not by New Yorkers — as Interstate 278.

Interstate 66 traffic

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

The District of Columbia can be a nightmare to navigate and avoid traffic — especially when there are special events occurring. For example, do not ever go to Washington when the Christmas tree is officially lit. Fortunately, I was not driving in December of 2015 on one of my visits there on business; but greater than two hours elapsed on what should have been a ride of fewer than 20 minutes.

Special circumstances can also skew actual experiences. Sitting for greater than four hours in a thunderstorm in South Africa attempting to cross the border into Lesotho was no picnic — but unbeknownst to me, the next day was Election Day in the largest enclave in the world. You will never find this area on a top ten traffic list; but four hours of being stuck is still four hours. That border crossing simply could not handle all of the traffic.

Visiting Honolulu was a real lulu for me the first time I was there. Traffic on the Lunalilo Freeway — also known as Interstate H1 — was at a standstill for hours; but that was because someone actually jumped from an overpass and committed suicide. Looking from the point of view of that poor soul, I suppose life could be a lot worse than sitting in a traffic jam.

Summary

I have had my fair share of sitting in traffic over the years. Just last week, I sat in traffic for almost two hours in Atlanta; and I have been in significant traffic jams in Miami, Nairobi, Chicago, Manila, Amsterdam, Boston, Seoul, Buenos Aires, Cairo and Seattle — to name only a fraction of cities.

On the other hand, I have not been to Kansas City recently; but I remember I used to call it the city without traffic jams, as driving through it during peak hours was rather easy for me. I would bet that that is not the case these days.

According to the aforementioned article, being stuck in traffic cost the average driver in the United States $1,400.00 last year and nearly $300 billion for all drivers nationwide, as they averaged 42 hours per year in traffic during peak times.

In my opinion, the main problem is urban sprawl where too many people live too far away from where they commute regularly — such as to a company where they work — and there are often not enough alternative options of ground transportation available. Working for the corporate headquarters of a company more often than not means that that company is based in an area too expensive for many employees to live within walking distance or fewer than 15 minutes away — or perhaps the company is located in an industrial area which is not considered desirable for living at home every day…

…and when someone travels from out of town and gets caught in significant traffic, that could lead to a bad taste for the rest of the visit.

Finally — despite factual information purporting otherwise — what people consider are the most congested cities can be quite subjective. A friend of mine based in the Los Angeles area keeps insisting that Atlanta is worse than Los Angeles in terms of traffic congestion — a statement with which I repeatedly disagree; but I am not going to “rub this study in his face” as I believe that it is flawed primarily because of the metropolitan areas of the world which are not included…

…but knowing the little-known key short cuts and alternate routes in a number of areas around the world has thankfully kept me from spending even more time in traffic than I had to spend.

If you know of any alternatives for fellow readers of The Gate to avoid wasting more time in traffic congestion than necessary — in specific locations or in general — please list them in the Comments section below.

In the meantime, here is one highway on which motorists never experience traffic congestion — unless the reason is because a movie is being filmed on it…

Traffic clogs the main avenue in central Sofia. Please click here and click here for trip reports on my day in the capital city of Bulgaria. Photograph ©2007 by Brian Cohen.

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