Ranking of U.S. Cities by Traffic

The top 10 most congested cities in the U.S.

Cars in a Washington DC traffic jam on the Beltway
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burwellphotography/Getty 

From the wear-and-tear on your car to money spent on gas, sitting in traffic can cost you. Americans spend nearly 100 hours each year in traffic, which costs the U.S. $87 billion, or about $1,348 per driver due to time lost in traffic.

Here are the top 10 most congested cities in the U.S., including how many hours the average commuter spent driving to fuel costs to time spent in traffic, along with the environmental impact. For these rankings, we used the 2018 INRIX Global Traffic Scorecard, which analyzed traffic and mobility trends in 200 cities in 38 countries. 

Wondering what contributes to a city’s traffic problem? One U.S. Department of Transportation report organized traffic by three main causes: traffic-influencing events, traffic demand, and physical highway features. Events include occurrences such as car accidents or construction zones, while increased traffic demand can be attributed to special events that increase traffic. Finally, physical highway features can include the physical capacity of certain roads, i.e. bottlenecks.

The following information comes from the INRIX Global Traffic scorecard:

  1. Boston is the worst state for traffic, with drivers losing 164 hours in 2018 due to traffic and an average inner-city speed of 11 mph. And if you’re a Boston resident, more bad news: This city’s drivers incurred the greatest cost from traffic, ringing in at $2,291 annually. 
  2. Next on the list is Washington, where the average drive spent 155 hours in traffic last year. It cost them $2,161. D.C. drivers also enjoyed the painfully slow average inner-city speed of 11 mph.
  3. Chicago is the third-worst city for traffic, with drivers losing 138 hours each year sitting in traffic. This comes at a cost of $1,920 in lost time. 
  4. Next on the list is New York where drivers spent 133 hours in traffic, costing them $1,859. New York was also the home of one of the worst corridors for traffic (I-95), which cost drivers 114 hours each year. 
  5. The fifth worst city for traffic, according to the report, is Los Angeles. LA drivers spent 128 hours in traffic last year, which cost them $1,788. The average speeds within the city were just 14 mph. 
  6. Seattle drivers wasted an average of 138 hours in traffic, which cost each driver $1,932, and the average inner-city speed was 10 mph.
  7. Pittsburgh drivers wasted 127 hours and $1,776, with average speeds at 13 mph. 
  8. San Francisco claimed the eighth spot for U.S. cities with the worst traffic. Drivers in the Golden Gate City spent 116 hours in traffic last year, which cost drivers $1,624. The average inner-city speed was 10 mph. 
  9. Philadelphia drivers spent 112 hours in congestion in 2018, costing them $1,568. Inner-city speeds averaged out at 10 mph. 
  10. Portland, Oregon rounded out the list of cities within the U.S. with the worst traffic, costing drivers between 112-116 hours each year and between $1,568 and $1,625.

It’s no surprise that traffic costs both drivers and the metropolitan areas, due to decreased worker productivity due to time lost spent in traffic, wasted fuel costs, even the increased cost of transporting goods through traffic-clogged roads. 

In fact, Boston’s traffic cost the city $4.1 billion, while Washington, D.C.’s overall cost of congestion was a bit higher, at $4.6 billion. Chicago topped out at a whopping $6.2. The traffic in New York City also cost the metropolitan area big—to the tune of $9.5 billion. 

The Bottom Line

There’s no doubt about it—traffic can cost you time and money. If you live in one of the worst cities in the U.S. for traffic, consider other transportation options, from carpooling to public transportation to yes, even riding your bike. A workout and saving the environment? Win-win. 

Article Sources

  1. Federal Highway Administration. "Traffic Congestion and Reliability:

    Trends and Advanced Strategies for Congestion Mitigation," Accessed Nov. 8 , 2019.

  2. Inrix. "INRIX 2018 Global Traffic Scorecard," Accessed Nov. 8, 2019.

  3. INRIX. "Congestion Costs Each American 97 hours, $1,348 A Year," Accessed Nov. 8, 2019.