By Catey Hill
You’re wasting more hours of your life sitting in traffic than ever before — and that’s not going to improve anytime soon.
In 95 of the 100 largest cities in America, traffic congestion worsened from 2013 to 2014, according to a study from the Texas A&M Transportation Institute, a research institute that develops solutions for transportation problems, released this month; that’s compared to worsening traffic conditions in just 61 of the 100 cities from 2012 to 2013. “The national congestion recession is over,” the study authors conclude.
Cities with the worst traffic
Data for the study came from the U.S. Department of Transportation and the individual states, and the study methodology is described in detail here.
This is thanks in large part to the fact that the U.S. economy has added more than 9 million jobs since the recession began, which means more people are now commuting to work. The unemployment rate was just 5.3% in July compared to 7.3% at the end of 2008.
The congestion problem isn’t going anywhere anytime soon either: A report by the U.S. Travel Association found that commuters on many cities highways will soon experience Labor Day-like gridlock — Labor Day is typically one of the busiest travel days of the year — on the average day of the week. Some already are: “Within many cities, already almost every day is like Labor Day,” says Erik Hansen, who managed the study, referencing the summer holiday that traditionally generates the nation’s worst traffic jams.
Millions of Americans waste more hours of their lives in traffic than they did three decades ago: Those traveling during peak travel hours will spend an average of 42 extra hours each year on the road (up from 18 in 1982) thanks to traffic, the Texas A&M Transportation Institute report revealed. That’s 6.9 billion hours for commuters on the whole — “more than the time it would take to drive to Pluto and back, if there was a road,” the authors note.
What’s more, in cities with more than one million people, commuters experienced an average of 63 hours of extra travel time each year. And in some cities, that’s even worse. Here are the 10 cities in which residents waste the most hours of their lives sitting in traffic:
1. Washington, D.C.
Commuters in our nation’s capital spend an average of 82 hours extra a year on the road thanks to traffic gridlock, making this the most congested city in America. This extra drive time costs the average auto commuter $1,834 per year (this number was calculated using a combination of the value of the travel delay — estimated at $17.67 per hour per person — and the average cost of gas in the state).
2. Los Angeles, Long Beach and Anaheim
The L.A. area comes in a close second when it comes to traffic congestion: Residents there spend an extra 80 hours a year in the car and $1,711 thanks to clogged roadways.
3. San Francisco and Oakland
Auto commuters in the Bay Area are wasting an extra 78 hours of their year in traffic — and that’s costing them $1,675. That may make working for some of the more high-profile tech companies (ahem, Facebook and Google) in the area even more appealing, as many provide you with swanky buses to get to and from the office.
4. New York and Newark
While the New York metro area ranks No. 4 in terms of the extra hours per year spent commuting (74), it ranks No. 2 in terms of what that costs residents ($1739).
5. San Jose, Calif.
Though it’s not an exceptionally large city, it has outsized traffic congestion: Commuters here waste 67 hours in traffic at a cost of $1,422 per commuter each year. It’s one of only two cities in the top 10 that has fewer than three million residents.
As anyone who’s sat (and sat) on I-90 or I-93 knows, it’s slow moving in Boston. Indeed, Bostonians waste 64 hours a year in traffic gridlock at a cost of $1,388.
In rainy Seattle, commuters who travel during peak times are forced to spend an extra $1,491 a year (in extra gas costs and the cost of lost time) thanks to gridlock as well as 63 additional hours in the car.
Residents of the Windy City spend an average of 61 extra hours in the car each year at a cost of $1,445.
Houston ties with Chicago in terms of the number of wasted commuter hours each year (61), though residents there spend a little more in terms of gas costs and the costs of their lost time than in Chicago ($1,490 vs. $1,445) because of it.
10. Riverside and San Bernardino
This is the fourth metro area in California to make this list, and one of only two cities with fewer than three million residents to make it (the other was San Jose). Commuters here waste 57 hours a year and spend $1,316, thanks to traffic gridlock.