February 24, 2010

Inrix Traffic Scorecard: Congestion up; Economy and Construction Effects

Inrix has released its annual study on the traffic congestion in America taking a fresh look at what's happening overall and where the worst congestion spots are across the country. The good news is that it appears that the economy is on the mend as traffic bottomed out in March/April of last year, the bad news is that congestion is up overall, especially in the non-rush hours where there was a 25% increase in congestion. The stimulus package and its associated construction efforts are changing patterns; worse congestion where construction projects have kicked off and relieved congestion where they have finished.

Overall, for those who commute, you probably already know that the best day to commute is Monday, and the worst on Thursday with people taking long weekends to relieve a little stress. The trouble is that the worst morning commute is Wednesday, while the worst evening commute is Friday - not too many people are staying late on Friday.

No surprise that Los Angeles tops the list for worst traffic; here's the top 10:

1. Los Angeles, Calif.
2. New York, N.Y.
3. Chicago, Ill.
4. Washington, D.C. (up from 6th in 2008)
5. Dallas, Texas
6. Houston, Texas (down from 4th in 2008)
7. San Francisco, Calif.
8. Boston, Mass.
9. Seattle, Wash.
10. Philadelphia, Pa. (up from 11th in 2008)

Inrix grabs their traffic from about 1.6 million GPS probes out on the roads that take the form of road sensors, GPS probes in fleet vehicles and more frequently users of applications like their Inrix Traffic! App on the iphone where the travel progress along the road is anonymously sent back for reporting on in-the-moment traffic conditions. If you want pure traffic reporting on the web, you can see their data on Mapquest, or on your iPhone with their Inrix Traffic! App (iTunes Link). They also power the traffic functions on most of the iPhone Apps, including Navigon (iTunes Link).

More data and details after the jump.

Traffic Congestion Returns as Economy Shows Signs of Recovery According to INRIX National Traffic Scorecard

Study Shows Recession Reset Traffic Congestion Levels Back at least Five Years; 2010 Outlook Depends on Jobs

Kirkland, WA - February 23, 2010 - INRIX®, a leading provider of traffic and navigation services, today released its 3rd Annual INRIX National Traffic Scorecard revealing that traffic congestion and commute travel times in 2009 are back on the rise as the economy emerges from the recession. The 150-page free report is available at http://inrix.com/scorecard/.

Gridlock across the U.S. bottomed out in March and April 2009 and congestion levels have begun to bounce back ending the year slightly ahead of 2008. In fact, 58 of the top 100 most populated cities in the U.S. experienced modest increases in traffic congestion levels last year. Over the course of 2009, increases in traffic from lower than average fuel prices (nearly $1 less per gallon than 2008) and a recovering economy slightly outpaced drops in commuting from the loss of over 5 million jobs. While unemployment kept morning commutes lighter than normal, traffic was up nearly every other hour of the day as individuals hit the roads in search of work or other trips - a 25 percent increase.

"So goes traffic, so goes the economy. The results suggest the holiday from increasing gridlock we've experienced the past few years is over," said Bryan Mistele, INRIX president and CEO. "An excellent indicator of economic trends, traffic congestion can tell us whether businesses are shipping products, whether people are going to work, and whether shoppers are going to the mall. That said, our analysis indicates that what happens going forward in terms of increasing gridlock, much like the economy, can be summed up in one word: Jobs."

By analyzing traffic on major highways in the nation's 100 largest metropolitan areas, the Scorecard provides both a glimpse into the health of our economy as well as a comprehensive snapshot into the intractable issues of urban traffic congestion. According to the report, the top 10 most congested cities in 2009 were:

1. Los Angeles, Calif.

2. New York, N.Y.

3. Chicago, Ill.

4. Washington, D.C. (up from 6th in 2008)

5. Dallas, Texas

6. Houston, Texas (down from 4th in 2008)

7. San Francisco, Calif.

8. Boston, Mass.

9. Seattle, Wash.

10. Philadelphia, Pa. (up from 11th in 2008)

These cities account for half of our nation's traffic congestion with 4 of the Top 10 cities experiencing modest increases in traffic congestion in 2009 (L.A., New York, Washington D.C. and Philadelphia.) Of the nation's top 30 largest cities, Las Vegas, Baltimore and D.C. experienced more than 10% increases in congestion during peak commute periods year-over-year. The increase in Las Vegas congestion was primarily due to major construction along I-15 that began in the Summer of 2008, while congestion in the nation's Capitol was indicative of a city bustling with activity as the federal government enacted policies and increased spending to combat the recession.

Other key INRIX National Traffic Scorecard findings include:

  • Showing the after effects of a battered economy, 2009 congestion levels were still one-third less compared to peak levels set in 2007. While varying by region, on a national level, the clock on traffic congestion has been turned back to at least 2005 - a silver lining of the tumultuous past few years - for those who still have jobs.

  • The nation's "Travel Time Tax" in 2009 was 8.9 percent, indicating the typical random peak hour trip took 8.9 percent longer than it would in uncongested conditions resulting in the typical urban commuter with a 30 minute commute sitting 22 hours a year stuck in traffic.

  • Wednesday from 8 to 9 a.m. continues as the busiest morning peak travel time nationwide and Friday from 5 to 6 p.m. continues to be the busiest evening (and overall) commute hour - with a travel time tax of 18.8%

  • The best day to commute is Monday with a Travel Time Tax of 7.1%; worst day is Thursday with a Travel Time Tax of 9.7%.

  • Population centers experiencing high unemployment, reduced tourism and/or less convention activity, experienced the highest drops in traffic congestion including Detroit, Honolulu, San Diego, and Chicago. Detroit, where the jobless rate reached a high of 17 percent in 2009, dropped from 18th to 27th in the rankings.

  • Los Angeles has the nation's highest metropolitan travel times during peak commute hours, followed closely by Honolulu, Washington D.C. and San Francisco

  • The worst region and time to be on our nation's roads is between 5 and 6 p.m. on Thursdays in Los Angeles where the travel time tax is 69%!

  • Philadelphia made the Top 10 for the first time (up from 11th) replacing Minneapolis which dropped to 12th (likely due to the I-35W bridge reopening)
  • Stimulus spending on road projects nationwide is starting to have an impact on congestion, particularly in off-peak periods. Delays across the country during off-peak periods - mid-days, evenings, overnights and weekends -were up 25 percent. Of the nation's biggest new work zone slowdowns in late 2009, more than half were directly tied to stimulus projects.
  • More than 2500 miles of our nation's most important roads are congested more than 5 hours each week. Drivers on more than 437 miles of these roads experience more than 20 hours of congestion each week, or 4 hours each work day.

    The Nation's Worst Bottlenecks

    INRIX also analyzed and ranked the worst metro traffic bottlenecks across the country and found that New York City, Los Angeles and Chicago continued to dominate the rankings in commuting nightmares. Westbound on the Cross Bronx Expressway (I-95) at the Bronx River Parkway in New York City remains the worst bottleneck in the nation, where traffic crawls more than 94 hours each week at an average of only 11.4 MPH. According to the report, the Top 10 worst traffic bottlenecks nationwide were:

    1. New York: The Cross Bronx Expressway/I-95 Southbound at the Bronx River Parkway

    2. Chicago: I-90 Westbound at Cermak Rd. (up from 7th in 2008)

    3. New York: Cross Bronx Expressway at I-895 (up from 5th in 2008)

    4. New York: Cross Bronx Expressway at White Plains Road (up from 5th in 2008)

    5. New York: Harlem River Drive Southbound at 3rd Ave. (down from 2nd in 2008)

    6. New Haven, CT: I-91 Southbound at Hamilton St. (up from 62nd in 2008)

    7. Los Angeles: US-101 North bound at Los Angeles St.(up from 13th in 2008)

    8. Chicago: I-90 Westbound at 18th St. (up from 24th in 2008)

    9. New York: Cross Bronx Expressway at Westchester Ave. (up from 11th)

    10. Chicago: I-90 Westbound at Ruble St.(up from 26th in 2008)

    This biggest mover into the Top 10 was the 6th ranked bottleneck, I-91 SB at Hamilton Street in New Haven, CT. This segment moved up from 62nd last year and leads into the work zone of the I-95 New Haven Harbor Crossing Corridor project. One of last year's Top 10 dropped way down the rankings, was in the San Francisco Bay area, where restriping expanded the exit ramp between I-580 WB and US 101 NB in Marin County from one to two lanes in a work zone, and as a result an upstream segment of I-580 WB that approached and included Bellam Boulevard, saw significantly less congestion, dropping from 4th in 2008 to 491st.

    Turning Insight into Intelligence and Taking Action

    The Annual INRIX Traffic Scorecard is based on analysis of raw data from INRIX' own historical traffic database generated by the company's Smart Driver Network of more than 1.6 million vehicles traveling the roads everyday including taxis, airport shuttles, service delivery vans, long haul trucks as well as consumer vehicles and mobile devices. Each data report from these GPS-equipped vehicles and devices includes the speed, location and heading of a particular vehicle at a reported date and time. With the nation's largest probe vehicle network, INRIX generates the most comprehensive and timely congestion analyses to date, covering the largest 100 metropolitan areas and all of the nation's major highways, interstates and limited access roads.

    INRIX is committed to working with its partners and customers to better understand the many issues that can affect the flow of traffic and provide consumers, businesses and the public sector with solutions for addressing these problems. INRIX has partnered with MapQuest, a wholly owned subsidiary of AOL, Inc., to provide additional insights and tips for saving time as well as ways to effectively handle a commute. For more information and details, please visit the MapQuest blog at http://blog.mapquest.com/. Available for free as a public service from INRIX, the INRIX National Traffic Scorecard is the definitive source on traffic congestion. The report is the first of its kind to rank and provide detailed information on the 100 most congested U.S. metropolitan areas and the 100 worst traffic bottlenecks. For more information about traffic in your city or to see the complete National Traffic Scorecard, visit: http://inrix.com/scorecard/ and to view videos about the report go to http://YouTube.com/INRIXTraffic.

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    Posted by Scott Martin at February 24, 2010 6:19 AM
  • Recent Comments

    I can certainly vouch for the San Francisco traffic being terrible. Although there's not many surprises, I always like this report INRIX puts out.

    Posted by: tmwitkemper at March 4, 2010 12:55 PM
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