Bumper-to-bumper traffic is America’s collective nightmare, and like the movie Groundhog Day it repeats on a daily basis.
Congestion consumes billions of gallons of fuel, wastes hundreds of billions of dollars in productivity and causes billions of stress headaches. Yet over 100 million automobile commuters each day feel like they have little option. “We put so much of our national wealth and our identity into the whole motoring thing,” says James Howard Kunstler, author of Geography of Nowhere, “that we can’t imagine doing something different.”
Anthony Downs, author of Stuck in Traffic has identified four reasons for America’s congestion problem, also applicable to most European and Asian economies:
- first, most of us work during the same hours of the day;
- second, the country’s economic success has allowed households to buy multiple cars;
- third, there are more people now than when most roadways were conceived;
- fourth, more cars means more accidents which means more delays.
In other words, this problem isn’t going anywhere. So the Daily Beast set out to figure out the worst of the worst. It was a two-step process, done with data from traffic-tracking firm INRIX, which culls information nationwide from more than 1.5 million GPS units, mostly in freight trucks.
First step was ranking the metropolitan areas with the worst rush-hour congestion. The order is based on the peak hour Travel Time Index (TTI) for the metropolitan area each highway is in. TTI is a measure of how much longer it takes to complete a road journey during peak congestion hours compared to free-flow hours. (Peak hours are defined as 6 a.m. to 10a.m., and 3 p.m. to 7 p.m.) Speeds during non-peak hours are used by INRIX to establish this free-flow baseline.
After determining the 75 worst metro areas, then the worst highway was found in each, defined as the most hours of bottleneck congestion, as reported by INRIX. The rankings then provide a still deeper look—at the most congested bottleneck segment for the worst highway in each area.
Here are the top 18, starting with Hampton Roads:
- #18, I-264, Virginia Beach/Norfolk, VA Weekly hours of bottleneck congestion: 97 Worst bottleneck: Westbound, City Hall Ave/Exit 10 Length of worst bottleneck: .15 mi Weekly hours of congestion on worst bottleneck: 28 Speed of worst bottleneck when congested: 8.9 mph
Commuter Buzz: “We’re the second-largest region in the state by population and we had a year in which there’s no interstate funding—I just didn’t want to set that precedent,” Aubrey Layne told the Virginian-Pilot in December 2009, after securing a $7.7 million in state funds for updates to the I-64/264 interchange.
- #17, I-494, Minneapolis-St. Paul, MN Weekly hours of bottleneck congestion: 184
- #16, I-5, Portland, OR Weekly hours of bottleneck congestion: 238
- #15, Loop 820, surrounds Dallas-Fort Worth Weekly hours of bottleneck congestion: 172
- #14, Southeast Expressway, Boston, MA Weekly hours of bottleneck congestion: 305
- #13, I-10, Baton Rouge, LA Weekly hours of bottleneck congestion: 93
- #12, Loop 610, surrounds Houston Weekly hours of bottleneck congestion: 189
- #11, Bayshore Freeway (US 101), San Jose, CA Weekly hours of bottleneck congestion: 231
- #10, Airport Expressway (State Road 112), Miami Weekly hours of bottleneck congestion: 183
- #9, Kennedy Expressway, Chicago, IL Weekly hours of bottleneck congestion: 712
- #8, I-95, Bridgeport, CT Weekly hours of bottleneck congestion: 272
- #7, I-5, Seattle, WA Weekly hours of bottleneck congestion: 256
- #6, Cross Bronx Expressway, New York City, NY Weekly hours of bottleneck congestion: 421
- #5, James Lick Freeway (US 101), San Francisco, CA Weekly hours of bottleneck congestion: 190
- #4, I-35, Austin, TX Weekly hours of bottleneck congestion: 460
- #3, Capital Beltway, surrounds Washington, DC Weekly hours of bottleneck congestion: 194
- #2, Lunalilo Freeway (H-1), Honolulu, HI Weekly hours of bottleneck congestion: 347
- #1, Hollywood Freeway, Los Angeles, CA Weekly hours of bottleneck congestion: 686
- #19, San Diego Freeway (I-5), San Diego, CA
- #20, Schuylkill Expressway, Philadelphia, PA
- #21, Baltimore Beltway, surrounds Baltimore, MD
- #22, I-75, Atlanta, GA
- #23, I-275, Tampa, FL
- #24, I-25, Denver, CO
- #25, Riverside Freeway, Riverside, CA
- #26, Ronald Reagan Freeway, Oxnard, CA
- #27, I-10, New Orleans, LA
- #28, I-91, New Haven, CT
- #29, Papago Freeway (I-10), Phoenix, AZ
- #30, Penn Lincoln Parkway (I-376), Pittsburgh, PA
- #31, Capital City Freeway, Sacramento, CA
- #32, I-15, Las Vegas, NV
- #33, I-84, Hartford, CT
- #34, I-94, Milwaukee, WI
- #35, East Independence Blvd, Charlotte, NC
- #36, I-75, Cincinnati, OH
- #37, I-65, Birmingham, AL
- #38, Loop 410, surrounds San Antonio, TX
- #39, Edsel Ford Freeway (I-94), Detroit, MI
- #40, I-10, El Paso, TX
- #41, I-195, Providence, RI
- #42, I-90, Cleveland, OH
- #43, I-26, Charleston, SC
- #44, I-40, Nashville, TN
- #45, I-270, St. Louis, MO
- #46, I 4, Orlando, FL
- #47, I-24, Chattanooga, TN
- #48, I-95, Jacksonville, FL
- #49, I-65, Louisville, KY
- #50, I-40, Raleigh, NC
And the rest of the top 50 worst commutes:
Last year, the Hampton Roads Transportation Planning Organization reached pretty much the same conclusion. It singled out the Downtown Tunnel as having the longest recurring afternoon delay in the region, about triple any other thoroughfare.
“Pound for pound, the Downtown Tunnel is about as bad as it gets for congestion,” said Dwight Farmer, the organization’s executive director.
“That’s not necessarily something to be proud of, but it surely makes our case – we need some help.”