How could a terrible report on traffic congestion be good news? Because it means the economy is moving--even if drivers aren't.
Traffic and navigation company Inrix just released its annual study of congestion, the Global Traffic Scorecard, and found things have not improved, particularly in the U.S. But that's good because it means the economy is still chugging along.
Overall, Inrix found that on average Americans wasted 97 hours a year sitting in traffic (and burning fuel and polluting the air) last year. That sounds terrible--and it is--but it also reflects the state of the union.
Back in 2008, Inrix's second annual traffic scorecard found that there was a 30 percent decline in traffic congestion across major metropolitan areas of the United States compared to data from 2007. There was fuel price volatility at the time, but traffic congestion really eased during the second half of 2008, when prices were lower. As I wrote in The New York Times at the time:
"So one might surmise that when people have to drive, they are going to drive no matter what the price of gas is. On the other hand, when you don’t have a job, then you don’t have to commute."
The way Inrix puts it today in its ranking of most congested cities, a higher ranking is "indicative of positive economic trends and a city’s desirability."
So what are the worst, er, most desirable cities in the U.S. for traffic congestion?
According to the study that included data on 200 cities in 38 countries the top 5 places in America where drivers wasted the most time were:
1 - Boston (164 hours lost due to congestion)
2 - Washington D.C. (155 hours)
3 - Chicago (138 hours)
4 - Seattle (138 hours)
5 - New York (133 hours)
Notorious Los Angeles came in sixth with 128 hours wasted by drivers each year, while Canadians could brag about their own traffic problems: Toronto tied Boston for the best time waster in North America with drivers twiddling their thumbs on the Don Valley Parkway (and other roads) for 164 hours last year.
Worse city last year for traffic according to Inrix? Moscow.