Relativity of congestion

Each year the Texas Transportation Institute at Texas A&M comes out with their Urban Mobility Scorecard, which of course is auto-centric like all other traffic planning. The ranking criteria calculates number of hours spent each year in congestion, which then leads to other criteria such as productivity wasted, extra fuel spent, etc. From a highway planning perspective, the criteria makes sense.

The top cities for the worst traffic are as follows. I’ve always thought their top-congested cities seemed fishy. In all, fast-growing Sun Belt metros typically rank higher for congestion than they do population, while slow-growing Rust Belt metros typically rank much lower for congestion than for population or anything else.

It’s also worth noting that many of these Sun Belt metros (like Tucson) are typically getting freeway expansion projects, whereas the Rust Belt metros (like Cleveland and Detroit) frequently are.

1 Washington-Arlington, DC-VA-MD-WV

2 Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, CA

3 San Francisco-Oakland, CA

4 New York-Newark, NY-NJ-CT

5 San Jose, CA

6 Boston, MA-NH

7 Seattle-Tacoma, WA

8 Chicago, IL

8 Houston, TX

10 Riverside-San Bernadino, CA

11 Dallas-Ft. Worth-Arlington, TX

12 Atlanta, GA

12 Detroit-Ann Arbor, MI

12 Austin, tX

12 Miami, FL

12: Portland-Vancouver, OR-WA

17 Phoenix-Tempe, AZ

18 Honolulu, HI

19 Denver-Boulder, CO

19 Oklahoma City-Norman, OK

 

I have always appreciated Google’s real-time traffic feature, which not only shows real-time traffic in all major city, but also has a feature that simulates typical traffic. I set the simulation for 5:30 p.m., peak of rush hour, on a Friday. Below are a curated snapshot of Google’s traffic simulation for the same time on the same day, at the same zoom level (although wider regions like Dallas-Ft. Worth have been shrunk by WordPress).

Albuquerque, NM: 36 hours annual delay, #70

abq

 

Atlanta, GA: 52 hours annual delay, #12 (tie)

atl

 

Austin, TX: 52 hours annual delay, #12 (tie)

aus

 

Bay Area –

San Francisco-Oakland, CA: 78 hours annual delay, #3; San Jose, CA: 67 hours, #5

bay

 

Birmingham, AL: 34 hours annual delay, #77 (tie)

bham

 

Boston, MA: 64 hours annual delay, #6

bos

 

Baton Rouge, LA: 47 hours annual delay, #23

br

 

Columbus, OH: 41 hours annual delay, #45 (tie)

cbus

 

Charlotte, NC: 43 hours annual delay, #35 (tie)

char

 

 

Chicago, IL: 61 hours annual delay, #8

chi

 

Cincinnati-Covington, OH-KY: 41 hours annual delay, #45 (tie)

cin

 

Northeast Ohio –

Cleveland, OH: 38 hours annual delay, #55 (tie); Akron, OH: 27 hours, #89

cle

 

Columbia, SC: 38 hours annual delay, #55 (tie)

col

 

Charleston, SC: 41 hours annual delay, #45 (tie)

cston

 

Capital Region

Washington-Arlington, DC-VA-MD-WV: 82 hours annual delay, #1; Baltimore, MD: 47 hours, #23

dcbal

 

Denver-Boulder, CO: 49 hours annual delay, #19 (tie)

den

 

Detroit-Ann Arbor, MI: 52 hours annual delay, #12 (tie)

det

 

Dallas-Ft. Worth-Arlington, TX: 53 hours annual delay, #11

dfw

 

Des Moines, IA: 12 hours annual delay, not ranked

dsm

 

Grand Rapids, MI: 39 hours annual delay, #51 (tie)

gr

 

Hartford, CT: 45 hours annual delay, #29 (tie)

hart

 

Houston, TX: 61 hours annual delay, #8 (tie)

hou

 

Indianapolis, IN: 43 hours annual delay, #35 (tie)

indy

 

Jacksonville, FL: 38 hours annual delay, #55 (tie)

jack

 

Kansas City-Overland Park, MO-KS: 39 hours annual delay, #51 (tie)

kc

 

Knoxville, TN: 35 hours annual delay, #72 (tie)

knox

 

Southern Cal –

Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, CA: 80 hours annual delay, #2; Riverside-San Bernadino, CA: 59 hours, #10

la

 

Louisville, KY-IN: 43 hours annual delay, #35 (tie)

lou

 

Little Rock, AR: 38 hours annual delay, #55 (tie)

lr

 

Memphis, TN-AR-MS: 43 hours annual delay, #55 (tie)

mem

 

Miami, FL: 52 hours annual delay, #12 (tie)

mia

 

Milwaukee, WI: 38 hours annual delay, #55 (tie)

mil

 

Minneapolis-St. Paul, MN-WI: 47 hours annual delay, #23 (tie)

msp

 

Nashville-Murfreesboro, TN: 45 hours annual delay, #29 (tie)

nash

 

New Orleans, LA: 45 hours annual delay, #29 (tie)

nola

 

New York-Newark, NY-NJ-CT: 74 hours annual delay, #4

nyc

 

Oklahoma City-Norman, OK: 49 hours annual delay, #19 (tie)

okc

 

Omaha, NE: 32 hours annual delay, #83

oma

 

Orlando-Kissimmee, FL: 46 hours annual delay, #27 (tie)

orl

 

Philadelphia-Trenton-Wilmington, PA-NJ-DE: 48 hours annual delay, #22

phi

 

Phoenix-Tempe, AZ: 51 hours annual delay, #17

phx

 

Pittsburgh, PA: 39 hours annual delay, #51

pitt

 

Portland-Vancouver-Hillsboro, OR-WA: 52 hours annual delay, #12

por

 

Providence-Fall River, RI-MA: 43 hours annual delay, #35 (tie)

prov

 

Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill, NC: 34 hours annual delay, #77 (tie)rdu

 

Richmond-Petersburg, VA: 34 hours annual delay, #77 (tie)

rich

 

San Antonio-New Braunfels, TX: 44 hours annual delay, #33

sa

 

Sacramento, CA: 43 hours annual delay, #35 (tie)

sac

 

San Diego, CA: 42 hours annual delay, #43

sd

 

Seattle-Tacoma, WA: 63 hours annual delay, #7

seatac

 

Salt Lake City-Provo, UT: 37 hours annual delay, #66

slc

 

St. Louis-Clayton, MO-IL: 43 hours annual delay, #35 (tie)

stl

 

Tampa-St. Petersburg, FL: 41 hours annual delay, #45 (tie)

tam

 

Toledo, OH-MI: 38 hours annual delay, #55 (tie)

tol

 

Tucson, AZ: 47 hours annual delay, #23 (tie)

tuc

 

Tulsa-Broken Arrow, OK: 44 hours annual delay, #33 (tie)

tul

 

Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News, VA: 45 hours annual delay, #29 (tie)

vab

 

Surprised to see that the Urban Mobility Scorecard shows Tucson having the #23rd worst congestion, which is significant, while Google’s simulation shows virtually no traffic at all. Tucson also benefits from a well-planned downtown streetcar and year-round good weather for bicycling.

Looking around the nation at congestion scenarios also underscores the folly of Rust Belt metros’ investments in highway expansions at the expense of transit budgets. Cities from Indianapolis to Grand Rapids to Pittsburgh have very little congestion relative to the rest of the nation. Even Cincinnati, where traffic is regarded as the worst in Ohio, is much lower on congestion metrics than Oklahoma City, where sprawl and boom-bust growth, in addition to infrastructure disinvestment, have wreaked havoc on cross-metro commutes.

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