INRIX produces a congestion score, which is a compilation of factors including population density, the average time spent commuting and the percentage of the population that drives to work.
In terms of the longest average daily commute, New Yorkers captured that honor with an average of 34.9 minutes. Washington, D.C., finished a close second at 34.5 minutes. However, the availability and use of public transportation pushed those cities down on the top 10 list.
The congestion index is a metric of how much longer it takes the average driver to travel during peak traffic hours than when traffic is clear. Los Angeles has a congestion index of 28.8, which means it takes 28.8 percent longer to make a trip during peak congestion hours than it does when there is no traffic.
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This year's most congested cities (with their congestion index in parentheses):
1. Los Angeles (28.8)
2. Honolulu (26)
3. San Francisco (23.5)
4. Austin, Texas (20.7)
5. New York City (19.9)
6. Bridgeport, Conn. (19.1)
7. San Jose, Calif. (17.6)
8. Seattle (17.6)
9. Washington D.C. (16.4)
10. Boston (14.7)
INRIX scale is supported by other surveys. Researchers at the Texas A&M Transportation Institute recently issued the Urban Mobility report and found similar results.
In the Texas A&M rankings, Washington, D.C., tops the list, followed by Los Angeles, San Francisco-Oakland, New York-Newark and Boston. The second five are Houston, Atlanta, Chicago, Philadelphia and Seattle. The Urban Mobility report provides a detailed illustration of traffic problems in a total of 498 U.S. urban areas.
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Congestion is frustrating, but researchers have found that it is also expensive—to society and drivers.
"We all understand that trips take longer in rush hour, but for really important appointments, we have to allow increasingly more time to ensure an on-time arrival," said Bill Eisele, a TTI researcher and report co-author. "As bad as traffic jams are, it's even more frustrating that you can't depend on traffic jams being consistent from day-to-day. This unreliable travel is costly for commuters and truck drivers moving goods."
The 2012 report estimated the additional carbon dioxide emission attributed to traffic congestion: 56 billion pounds—about 380 pounds per auto commuter.
Additionally, the amount of fuel wasted in congested traffic was 2.9 billion gallons—enough to fill the New Orleans Superdome four times. That's the same as 2010, but short of the 3.2 billion gallons wasted in 2005.
The total financial cost of congestion in 2011 was $121 billion, up one billion dollars from the year before, or $818 per commuter. Of that, about $27 billion worth was wasted time and diesel fuel from trucks moving goods on the system.