How Many Hours Do Americans Lose to Traffic Congestion?

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by visualcapitalist

US traffic

No one likes being stuck in traffic. But have you ever wondered how many hours it’s actually taking away from you?

In some of the biggest U.S. cities, the answer could be over 100 hours in a single year.

2020 was very unique, however, and traffic was less severe due to the COVID-19 pandemic. For example, the average American driver lost 99 hours in 2019 due to traffic. In 2020, this fell to just 26 hours.

Nevertheless, drivers in America still lost a sizeable chunk of time throughout the year. To see exactly how much, we compiled data from INRIX to pinpoint the 10 most congested cities in America.

City Hours Lost in Congestion (2020)
New York City, NY 100
Philadelphia, PA 94
Chicago, IL 86
Boston, MA 48
Los Angeles, CA 45
San Francisco, CA 47
New Orleans, LA 42
Houston, TX 35
Miami, FL 35
Dallas, TX 34
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Unsurprisingly, America’s most populous city was also its most congested. As of 2020, New York City had a population of nearly 9 million people.

Going to a more granular level helps us identify New York City’s worst corridor: the Brooklyn Queens Expressway. Daily traffic on the segment between I-495 and Tillary Street is estimated to have cost drivers approximately 30 hours in 2020.

What Could You Have Done Instead?

Here’s a list of things that the average New Yorker could have done with the 100 hours they lost to traffic.

Activity Number of Hours Required
Take 2.5 weeks off work 100
Walk through Central Park 100 times 100
Read Leo Tolstoy’s most famous novels, War and Peace (1869) and Anna Karenina (1878) 98
Drive to Los Angeles and back
(theoretical time which assumes no breaks are taken)
84
Watch the entire Game of Thrones TV series from beginning to end 70
Earn your private pilot license
(actual flight training time)
40
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Source: Audible, FAA, Google Maps, Statista

Traffic is going to get worse as more people move to urban areas, but this doesn’t mean that all hope is lost.

The majority of traffic problems are caused by human behavior, meaning autonomous vehicles could reduce many of the inefficiencies that cause congestion. Unfortunately, Level 5 self-driving cars are still a ways off, despite the claims of Tesla CEO Elon Musk.

 

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