The next time you're stuck in traffic, count yourself lucky to not be a driver in Los Angeles (and if you are, we are so, so sorry.)
L.A. is the worst U.S. city for commuters, according to the Texas A&M Transportation Institute's 2019 Urban Mobility Report. The average Angeleno spends an estimated 119 hours a year stuck in traffic. Put another way, that's just under five days — yes, basically a full work week, morning and night — stuck bumper to bumper alongside a few other (thousand) frustrated drivers.
The report measures delays by how much longer a driver takes to complete a route during peak driving times (6 to 10 a.m. and 3 to 7 p.m.) versus outside of those rush hour windows.
San Franciscans, meanwhile, get to enjoy the second-most delayed commute, spending an extra 103 hours a year stuck in traffic. That's nearly double the national average of 54 hours a year that the average U.S. driver loses to traffic.
It's not just a time management issue either. Based on Bureau of Labor Statistics data on the median hourly wage, researchers estimate the average commuter's delays cost $1,010 a year in lost productivity. Extra time on the road also used 21 gallons of fuel per driver. On a national level, that's a loss of $166 billion and 3.3 billion gallons of wasted fuel a year.
"The value of investing in our nation's transportation infrastructure in a strategic and effective manner cannot be overstated as these added costs impact our national productivity, quality of life, economic efficiency and global competitiveness," said Marc Williams, deputy executive director of the Texas Department of Transportation, in a statement.
Researchers note that changes need to be made at the local, state and national levels to address poor infrastructure and heavy road use. And traffic concerns don't just impact daily commuters; travel delay costs from manufacturers and shippers also get passed on to consumers.
Here are the cities where drivers spend the most time in gridlock each year:
- Los Angeles: 119 hours
- San Francisco: 103 hours
- Washington, D.C.: 102 hours
- New York City: 92 hours
- Boston: 80 hours
- Seattle: 78 hours
- Atlanta: 77 hours
- Houston: 75 hours
- Chicago: 73 hours
- Miami: 69 hours
Some of the researchers' other recommendations for less congestion, lost productivity and wasted fuel: more roads, better transit systems, reduced road demand via more remote work opportunities, staggered working hours and smarter land use.
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