Management & Operations

L.A. is world's most gridlocked city, new report says

Posted on February 6, 2018

Los Angeles drivers spent 102 peak hours in congestion in 2017, followed by Moscow (91 hours), New York (91 hours), San Francisco (79 hours) and Bogota (75 hours). Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Myriam Thyes
Los Angeles drivers spent 102 peak hours in congestion in 2017, followed by Moscow (91 hours), New York (91 hours), San Francisco (79 hours) and Bogota (75 hours). Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Myriam Thyes

Los Angeles topped the list of the world’s most gridlocked cities, with drivers spending 102 peak hours in congestion in 2017, followed by Moscow (91 hours), New York (91 hours), San Francisco (79 hours) and Bogota (75 hours), according to a new report.

The annual Global Traffic Scorecard report, published by INRIX, analyzed 1,360 cities — up by nearly 300 cities from the 2016 Scorecard — across 38 countries.

The U.S. ranked as the most congested developed country in the world, with drivers spending an average of 41 hours a year in traffic during peak hours, which cost drivers nearly $305 billion in 2017, an average of $1,445 per driver.

The U.S. had three of the top five most congested cities globally, with Los Angeles (first), New York (tied for second with Moscow) and San Francisco (fifth) costing an economic drain upwards of $2.5 billion caused by traffic. Angelenos spent an average of 102 hours last year in traffic jams during peak congestion hours, costing drivers $2,828 each and the city $19.2 billion from direct and indirect costs. Direct costs relate to the value of fuel and time wasted, and indirect costs refer to freight and business fees from company vehicles idling in traffic, which are passed on to households through higher prices.

Despite the high costs of congestion in Los Angeles and other cities, American drivers, in general, had it easier than their German counterparts. At $1,770, congestion cost the average German driver 57 percent more than an American, after adjusting for exchange rates and the cost of living. Detroit had the lowest cost of congestion among the top 25 U.S. cities, at $1,256 per driver, and ranked among the bottom in all three categories of costs: commuting, business and leisure/other.

“Congestion costs the U.S. hundreds of billions of dollars, and threatens future economic growth and lowers our quality of life,” said Dr. Graham Cookson, Chief Economist at INRIX. “If we’re to avoid traffic congestion becoming a further drain on our economy, we must invest in intelligent transportation systems to tackle our mobility challenges.”

Interestingly, both New York and San Francisco, the second- and third-ranked cities in North America (91 and 79 hours spent in congestion respectively), have a similar average congestion rate as Los Angeles (13 percent), but show different commute patterns. San Francisco, for example, had the highest congestion rate (tied with Boston) on arterial and city streets during the peak commute hours, while New York holds the top spot during the daytime.

Table 1: 10 Most Congested Urban Areas in the U.S.

2017 Rank (2016 Rank)City / Large Urban Area2017 Peak Hours in Congestion
(% of 2016 change)
% of Total Drive Time in CongestionTotal Cost Per Driver in 2017Total Cost to the City in 2017
1 (1)Los Angeles, CA102 (-2%)12% $ 2,828 $19.2bn
2 (2)New York City, NY91 (+2%)13% $ 2,982 $33.7bn
3 (3)San Francisco, CA79 (-5%)12% $ 2,250 $10.6bn
4 (4)Atlanta, GA70 (-1%)10% $ 2,212 $7.1bn
5 (5)Miami, FL64 (-2%)9% $ 2,072 $6.3bn
6 (6)Washington, DC63 (+3%)11% $ 2,060 $6.1bn
7 (8)Boston, MA60 (+3%)14% $ 2,086 $5.7bn
8 (9)Chicago, IL57 (0%)10% $ 1,994 $5.5bn
9 (10)Seattle, WA55 (0%)12% $ 1,853 $5.0bn
10 (7)Dallas, TX54 (-8%)6% $ 1,674 $4.9bn

Downtown Metro Insights

  • Commuters within Boston and San Francisco had the highest U.S. congestion rates on arterial and city streets during the peak commute hours (23 percent).
  • But the worst downtown slowdowns were in El Paso, Texas where speeds dropped from 43 mph at free flow speeds to 5 mph when congested.


In and Out of City Insights

  • Drivers moved more quickly in the South. The top five fastest non-congested speeds during the peak period on highways were all in the South with Florida having the highest uncongested average speeds in 2017. Drivers in Fort Myers moved the fastest at an average of 68 mph.
  • Commuters around Everett, Washington spent more time stuck in traffic than anyone else, with a congestion rate of 28 percent on highways in and out of the city.


Business Impact

  • New York businesses suffered the most from congestion with an average of 14 percent of travel time on weekdays in gridlock and where drivers wasted the most daytime hours stuck in traffic in the entire U.S.
  • Santa Cruz, Calif. had the worst overall daytime congestion on arterial and highways with drivers spending 12 percent of their days sitting in traffic.


Weekend Insights

  • Getting to the beach was not easy at Dana Point, Calif. where drivers were stuck in congestion 21 percent of the time during weekends, the highest in the U.S.
  • Drivers cruised their slowest in Las Vegas, Nev. where weekend congestion speeds were just 5 mph.


The Most Congested Corridors in the U.S.
For the third year in a row, the (I-95) Cross Bronx Expressway in New York City tops the INRIX list of worst corridors, with the average driver on the 4.7 mile stretch wasting 118 hours per year in congestion, an increase of 37 percent over last year. For the third year in a row, the (I-95) Cross Bronx Expressway in New York City tops the INRIX list of worst corridors, with the average driver on the 4.7 mile stretch wasting 118 hours per year in congestion, an increase of 37 percent over last year.

Three other New York corridors fill out the top 10, but it should be pointed out that the NYCDOT has taken various positive actions to improve safety and operations. For example, under NYC’s Vision Zero programs the official speed was lowered to reduce traffic fatalities and improve safety for a mix of bicycles, pedestrians, buses, and delivery trucks along local streets.

Surprisingly, Los Angeles, with the top spot in terms of peak hours sitting in congestion in the world, only holds one spot on the list – I-10 Eastbound between I-405 and I-110. San Francisco, the third highest ranking city in the U.S. for peak time spent in congestion, does not appear on the US worst corridors list until number 31.

Table 2: 10 Most Congested U.S. Roads in 2017

RankCity / Large Urban AreaRoadFromToWorst Peak PeriodHours of Delay
1New York, NYI-95 EastboundExit 1C/Alexander Hamilton Brdg WExit 6A/I-278PM118
2Chicago, ILI-90/I-94 SouthboundExit 53C/I-55Exit 34B/Lake Ave EAM98
3Chicago, ILI-290 EastboundExit 15A/I-88Exit 28B/Paulina StAM89
4Los Angeles, CAI-10 EastboundExit 3A/S Figueroa StExit 13/I-110PM74
5Pittsburgh, PAI-376 EastboundExit 65/Academy StExit 77/EdgewoodAM66
5Chicago, ILI-90 SouthboundExit 50A/N Ogden AveExit 43C/Montrose AveAM66
7New York, NYE 34th StFDR Dr5th AveAM59
8New York, NYBelt Pkwy EExit 3/I-278Exit 17/Cross Bay BlvdPM57
9New York, NYE 42nd StFDR Dr7th AvePM56
10Boston, MAI-93 SouthboundExit 20B/Albany StExit 8/Furnace Brook PkwyPM55

How the U.S. Cities Compare to Top Cities Worldwide
At the global level, Los Angeles topped the list of the world’s most gridlocked cities, with drivers spending 102 peak hours in congestion in 2017, followed by Moscow (91 hours), New York (91 hours), San Francisco (79 hours) and Bogota (75 hours).

Table 3: 10 Most Congested Cities in the World in 2017

2017 RankGlobal CityCountryContinent2017 Hours Spent in Congestion Percentage of Total Drive Time in Congestion
1Los AngelesU.S.North America10212%
2MoscowRussiaEurope9126%
2New York CityU.S.North America9113%
4Sao PauloBrazilSouth America8622%
5San FranciscoU.S.North America7912%
6BogotaColombiaSouth America7530%
7LondonU.K.Europe7413%
8AtlantaU.S.North America7010%
9ParisFranceEurope6913%
10MiamiU.S.North America649%

Of the 38 countries covered by the INRIX 2017 Traffic Scorecard, Thailand leads with the highest average hours spent in peak congestion (56 hours), outranking Indonesia (51 hours) and Columbia (49 hours), followed by Venezuela (42), and the U.S. and Russia both with 41 hours. Among developed nations, U.S. and Russia shared top of the most congested countries in the world.

Table 4: 15 Most Congested Countries in the World in 2017

2017 Rank
(2016 Rank)
CountryContinent 2017 Peak Hours Spent in Congestion
1 (1)ThailandAsia56
2 (2)IndonesiaAsia51
3 (2)ColombiaSouth America49
4 (6)VenezuelaSouth America42
5 (4)RussiaEurope41
5 (5)U.S.North America41
7 (8)BrazilSouth America36
7 (7)South AfricaAfrica36
9 (10)TurkeyEurope32
10 (11)U.K.Europe31

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