Gas prices are cheap. The unemployment rate is low. The population is growing. Fueled by those factors, Americans drove more than three trillion miles last year, according to the Federal Highway Administration, the most since the start of the Great Recession.
But the increased economic activity comes with a downside – more motorists are stuck in traffic.
Congestion is a growing problem in most major US cities, according to Inrix, a leading provider of real-time and predictive traffic data. The Seattle-based company released its annual traffic scorecard Tuesday, and found commuters in America waste more time stuck in traffic than anywhere else in the world. The average American commuter loses an average of nearly 50 hours a year atrophying in traffic, according to Inrix.
Depending on where you live, that number can vary greatly. Los Angeles commuters faced the worst conditions in the country, frittering away 81 hours per year in traffic. Washington D.C. and San Francisco drivers were next, losing an average of 75 hours.
Rounding out the American top 10: Houston (74 hours), New York (73 hours), Seattle (66 hours), Boston (64 hours), Chicago (60 hours), Atlanta (59 hours) and Honolulu (49 hours). Worldwide, Londoners faced the worst traffic, wasting 101 hours per year idling in their cars. But American cities claimed the next five spots. Overall, US commuters wasted 8 billion hours in traffic, according to Inrix.
It’s going to get worse. An estimated 70 million more people will be competing for space on highways over the next 30 years, according to federal estimates. During the same period, DOT projections indicate there will be 65 percent more trucks on American roads.