Worst Traffic in America Ranking No Longer Held by Los Angeles, According to New Study

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Worst Traffic in America Ranking No Longer Held by Los Angeles, According to New Study

Worst Traffic in America Ranking No Longer Held by Los Angeles, According to New Study

Jun 30, 2021

For nearly 40 years, Los Angeles has held the dubious distinction of having the worst traffic in the country. A variety of studies throughout the past four decades have consistently confirmed that Los Angeles’ traffic congestion is unlike anything else in the nation.

In 2017, a study by INRIX, a company specializing in car services and transportation analytics, identified Los Angeles as the worst-ranking city for traffic in not only the nation, but also the world. Out 1,360 other cities in 38 countries, Los Angeles claimed the “worst traffic congestion” title for the sixth straight year.

According to INRIX’s 2017 report, drivers in and around the City of Angels spent 102 hours battling traffic congestion during peak hours. By contrast, as the Los Angeles Times reported, New York City motorists spent 91 hours battling peak-hour congestion. New York was Number 3 on the INRIX list, while Number 2 was Moscow.

The 2017 INRIX study also found that traffic congestion cost U.S. motorists almost $305 billion, an average of $1,445 per driver (with the net and individual sums reflecting both direct and indirect costs). For that year, the U.S. accounted for 10 of the top 25 cities worldwide with the worst traffic congestion, according to the INRIX study.

In addition to the yearly INRIX report, the Texas A&M Transportation Institute publishes an annual Urban Mobility Report. Since 1982, Texas A&M has ranked the Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim region as the worst in America for traffic congestion. However, the results of the 2021Urban Mobility Report indicated a historic change in the nation’s worst-ranking cities for traffic congestion.

For 2020, the Texas A&M Transportation Institute concluded that the New York-Newark region officially took the top ranking (away from Los Angeles) for worst traffic in the nation.

The rankings are based on the total amount of hours drivers were delayed in each metropolitan area. The study found that New York-Newark region drivers spent 494,268 hours stuck in traffic last year, while drivers in the Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim region recorded slightly less time in traffic, with 365,543 hours.

The following table was included in the 2021 Urban Mobility Report:

Congestion in 2019 and 2020 Additional Information for Urban Areas

Congestion in 2019 and 2020 Additional Information for Urban Areas

As for contributing factors that led to Los Angeles losing the top ranking (and notoriety) of worst traffic in America for 2020, the report points to the COVID-19 pandemic as being primarily to blame.

With stay-at-home orders in place for much of the year, many Angelenos worked from home, causing our usually busy and overcrowded roads and highways to be virtually empty during traditional peak times of heavy rush hour traffic.

According to the study, in 2019, when Los Angeles held the number one ranking for worst motor vehicle congestion, the total number of hours that drivers spent in traffic was nearly triple what it was for 2020.

When you compare the significant variance side-by-side between years, it’s a little staggering:

  • 2019 total hours spent in traffic for Los Angeles drivers: 952,183
  • 2020 total hours spent in traffic for Los Angeles drivers: 365,543

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But Los Angeles was not the only city experiencing a drop in traffic, as the Texas A&M Urban Mobility Report confirms. According to the report, the top 15 American cities with the worst traffic in 2020 combined dropped, on average, from 312,680 to 152,347 total hours.

“Flexible work hours and reliable internet connections allow employees to choose work schedules that are beneficial for meeting family needs and the needs of their jobs,” Urban Mobility Report co-author, David Schrank, said in a statement. “And it also reduces the demand for roadway space, which is beneficial for the rest of us.”

Additionally, the New York-Newark region placed first for average amount of hours a driver spent in traffic last year with 56.

For 2020, the top five metropolitan areas and correlating average hours that their drivers spent in traffic were:

  • New York-Newark: 56 average hours spent in traffic
  • Boston: 50 average hours spent in traffic
  • Houston: 49 average hours spent in traffic
  • Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim: 46 average hours spent in traffic
  • San Francisco-Oakland: 46 average hours spent in traffic

Will Los Angeles reclaim the title of worst-ranking city in America for traffic congestion in 2021? The jury’s still out on that particular question. However, with the COVID-19 pandemic subsiding in many parts of the nation, it’s fair to say that the rankings may look much different year-to-year.

As USA Today reported, “Even though nationwide traffic dipped to some of the lowest levels in the past 30 years, it isn’t expected to remain like that. By September [2020], traffic conditions were beginning to rise, and with California now fully re-opened, Los Angeles may be coming back for its title.

INRIX’s 2020 Global Traffic Scorecard indicated that for the year 2019, Los Angeles actually had two of the worst traffic corridors in the nation.

According to INRIX’s findings, drivers on the stretch of the Santa Ana (5) Freeway from the San Bernardino (10) Freeway to San Gabriel River (605) Freeway waste 20 minutes per day and 80 hours per year at peak hours in congestion (the worst in the nation at the time).

Additionally, the Hollywood (101) Freeway from the Ventura (134) Freeway to the Harbor (110) Freeway was ranked the second worst traffic corridor in the U.S., with drivers wasting 19 minutes daily (76 hours per year) at peak hours in congestion.

The COVID-19 Pandemic’s Impact on Traffic and Motor Vehicle Fatalities

The COVID-19 Pandemic's Impact on Traffic and Motor Vehicle Fatalities

As we’ve reported in previous blogs, while the coronavirus pandemic caused many of us to remain at home under lockdown orders, empty roads didn’t necessarily mean safer roads for the year 2020.

While many people were adhering to mandatory stay-at-home orders, those on those empty roads tended to practice unsafe and reckless driving behaviors, including speeding. According to a study from the National Safety Council (NSC), the motor vehicle death rate for 2020 increased 24% from the previous year, representing the highest number in 13 years.

The estimated annual population death rate for 2020 was 12.8 deaths per 100,000 population, up from 11.9 in 2019. But the most striking statistic gathered by the NSC is the estimated mileage death rate for 2020, which is 1.49 deaths per 100 million vehicle miles traveled. Although that may seem like a small figure, it actually represents a staggering 24% increase from 2019.
And that 24% increase in deaths per 100 million vehicle miles traveled occurred despite the fact that the total miles driven in 2020 decreased by 13% (primarily due to the coronavirus lockdown orders). In 2019, Americans logged an estimated 3,260 billion miles on their odometers. But in 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic, that number fell to 2,830 billion.

Moreover, preliminary data recently released by the NSC estimates that the total number of motor vehicle deaths for the entire 2020 calendar year was 42,060. That represents an 8% increase from 2019, when an estimated 39,107 fatalities occurred.

Furthermore, a troubling report from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration confirmed that the number of fatal car accidents involving non-Hispanic Black people rose an astounding 23% in 2020 when compared to data from the previous year.

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