During the pandemic, most people didn’t have to leave their homes, meaning those who did had smooth sailing on major roadways. Now that we’re back to business as usual, the roads are more crowded than ever. Nobody likes to sit in traffic, but here are 17 cities where you just expect it.
New York, New York
It should come as no surprise that NYC makes the list of gridlocked cities. The cars that seem to block up Midtown intersections may surprise you, though. It seems rideshare vehicles—not trucks, private vehicles, or even taxis—are taking over. “They are three times more prevalent than taxis and by far the dominant vehicle in the streets, in Midtown, during the weekdays,” NYU Professor Riccio said.
In an already busy city, adding major road work to multiple main thoroughfares is a recipe for traffic. Many Chicago residents are complaining about 2-hour commutes due to the city’s poor management of road maintenance. Public transportation in the city is also not an option for many who complain of long wait times, security issues, and “ghost” trains and buses.
Los Angeles, California
L.A. started growing as a city at about the same time that personal vehicle ownership started booming. This led to a city that was meant to be driven. However, as more people come to the city, so do more cars. Many believe more roads on main arteries would help, but according to a recent paper, “the solution to the problem… seems clear. To fix a street too often jammed with cars, we widen it, build another street or road parallel to it, impose new rules to enforce efficient traffic flow, or… tell drivers when and where to avoid congestion.”
It’s common to hear, “It takes an hour to get to Boston from Boston.” In a city that was built long before cars, many of Boston’s roads are narrow and unable to be expanded. Though public transportation was an option, data shows fewer people are using public transportation now than they were pre-pandemic, which could contribute to more cars on the road.
Another historic city with an aging infrastructure that includes main roads and bridges into the city leads to major repairs, the inability to expand, and traffic. The most recent study puts Philly above LA on the traffic scale.
Much of Seattle’s traffic is simple geography. They have water on the east and west, so there are only two viable high-capacity North-South routes through the city: I-5 and SR99. All of their hills were carved by glaciers and run North-South, so any East-West route in Seattle proper is going to be very hilly.
Miami is a driver’s city. Walkable neighborhoods with mixed-use zoning are not as common as many would prefer. And public transportation is not always readily available. When the only way to get from point A to point B is your car, traffic is bound to pile up.
Washington, D.C., is a busy city with tourists, locals, and transient workers there for a couple of years. The main thoroughfares, like I95 Mixing Bowl or DuPont Circle, can be confusing to even those who live there. Add in construction delays and road closures for marches, and traffic can be stopped at any day or time.
The actual city of Atlanta is not a large space, but the Atlanta Metropolitan Area is comprised of the city of Atlanta and 28 counties. The sprawl of the city makes it less conducive to walking or public transportation. Construction detours not being properly marked is often a complaint of city drivers as well.
San Francisco, California
It’s not just the high population of the San Francisco Metropolitan Area; San Francisco has some of the worst maintained roads in the country. An analysis by Teletrac found that 71% of the roads in the city are in very poor condition. Without room to expand roads or add new routes, commuters are forced to risk their vehicles on the ones that exist.
Some blame blatant traffic violations in Denver for their traffic issues more than the roads themselves. The numbers show it’s simply an increase in population with more cars on the road. Denver is working to make bike commuting safer for those who want some fresh air; this could be a nice change of pace.
Wes Moore, in a bid for Maryland governor, said, “Every person has the right and expectation to travel safely, regardless of mode. Too many families are experiencing the loss of a family member while driving, walking, or biking along our roadways. One death is one too many. In the last three years, there have been over 500 fatalities per year on Maryland roadways. Prince George’s County had the highest number of fatalities in 2021 with 119, and Baltimore City with the second highest at 68.”
Phoenix has two of the country’s worst bottlenecks: the intersection of Interstate 17 and Interstate 10 (ranked 30th) and the intersection of Interstate 10 and the U.S. 60 (ranked 69th). It is the 5th largest city in the U.S., with a population that is still growing, which means more people are commuting across the city.
San Antonio, Texas
According to a local newspaper, “the most congested roadway in the San Antonio area is Interstate 35,” and it is ranked as the 27th most congested in the state. San Antonio has nine of Texas’s 100 most congested roadways.
New Orleans, Louisiana
The city comes with a unique layout that doesn’t lend itself to smooth sailing on its highways to begin with. Not only is New Orleans unique in its design, but it also attracts unique visitors for its jazz festivals and the notorious Mardi Gras. It’s easy to see why the Big Easy easily makes the list for bad traffic.
If there’s one thing the Motor City is good at, it’s stop-and-go traffic. Traveling one way across Detroit takes almost as long as driving across L.A., despite the Motor City being smaller than L.A. by hundreds of square miles.
“Indiana is the Crossroads of America and our highway system is vital to our state and national economic success,” said Gary Langston, president and CEO of the Indiana Motor Truck Association. However, Indianapolis is home to three of the most congested highways, making it less than ideal for truckers and cars alike. CF
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