Thanks to the recent trend of working from home, sitting in bumper-to-bumper traffic might be a frustration of the past, at 7 AM and 5 PM, anyways. Cities across America are now seeing traffic congestion pop up in new areas and at different times of the day.
Instead of commuter cars being prevalent, larger vehicles have taken over the roadways. In the United States, passenger vehicles are only driving 82% of pre-pandemic miles. Still, the use of delivery fleets, large and small, remains unchanged. With more people working from home and having flexible schedules, traffic now pops up midday and in more suburban locations.
All combined, traffic has improved. "On average, American drivers lost just 26 hours" to traffic jams in 2020 compared to "99 hours in 2019," according to INRIX, a connected car services and mobility analytics firm. Despite these improvements, some of the outliers driving up the average may surprise you.
THE MOST CONGESTED CITIES ACROSS AMERICA
While all ten of the most congested cities were less crowded in 2020 than in 2019, drivers still lost considerable time stuck in traffic.
In 2020, New York City was the most congested city in America. While down 28% from 2019, commuters still lost a total of 100 hours to traffic. Philadelphia, Chicago, Boston, and Los Angeles rounded out the top five most congested cities.
Such extreme congestion isn't just an annoyance or loss of time to exercise or engage in another hobby. INRIX translated traffic delays into dollars lost. For example, the 100 hours lost to traffic in New York City had a per driver cost of $1,486. This is a $607 improvement year over year, largely thanks to the effects of the pandemic.
THE MOST CONGESTED ROADS IN AMERICA
Some of the cities on the top ten list do not likely cause surprise. When crunching 2020 data, New York appears three times while San Francisco and Los Angeles each appear twice.
The worst road in America in 2020, however, was in Chicago. Commuters heading East on I-290, the Eisenhower Expressway—"The Ike" to locals—experienced 41 hours of delays. This was down 15 hours compared to 2019 data. Even so, it helped Chicago move up on the global congestion list.
Chicago moved from the tenth (2019) most congested globally to the seventh in 2020. Chicago was the only American city, aside from Philadelphia and New York, to make the INRIX list of the "Ten Most Congested Cities in the World in 2020."
If ignoring the pandemic's effects, “The Ike” hasn't always been the worst— not by a long shot. In 2019, before the work from home trend swept America, the number one most congested road was I-5 in Los Angeles. It saw delays twice as bad as I-290, amassing a total of 80 hours in delays.
Since New York City was the most congested city in America in 2020, it shouldn't come as a surprise that on the list of Most Congested Roads, it takes second, third, and fourth place.
The Brooklyn Queens Expressway is largely responsible for this. Different sections of this road occupy second and fourth place on INRIX’s list and cost drivers 53 hours in 2020.