If You Visit These 10 Cities, Be Prepared to Sit in Traffic

While travelers’ focus tends to be on air travel, most trips involve considerable time spent in cars, whether it’s a taxi from the airport to the hotel, or a side trip in a rental, or just Ubering around town. If you’re traveling domestically, within the U.S., those hours on the road can cost you more time than you might imagine.

The U.S. is the world’s most congested country, with drivers spending an average of 42 hours a year in traffic during peak hours. That’s an average, mind you; in some cities, it’s worse. Much worse. In Los Angeles, the worst of the 1,064 cities evaluated worldwide, drivers spent 104 hours stuck in traffic during peak travel times.

That’s according to the latest study by INRIX, “a global leader for transportation analytics.” The company’s annual traffic scorecard is intended to serve as a guide for governments and organizations looking to improve urban mobility. And there’s plenty of room for improvement in the U.S., which accounted for five of the ten worst cities for traffic congestion across America and Europe. The five non-U.S. cities among the top 10 were, from most to least congested: Moscow, Bogota, Sal Paulo, London, and Paris.

Which U.S. cities were the worst? Led by Los Angeles, the ten most congested American cities, and the number of hours spent in traffic, were as follows:

  1. Los Angeles, CA – 104
  2. New York, NY – 89
  3. San Francisco, CA – 83
  4. Atlanta, GA – 71
  5. Miami, FL – 65
  6. Washington, DC – 61
  7. Dallas, TX – 59
  8. Boston, MA – 58
  9. Chicago, IL – 57
  10. Seattle, WA – 55

According to the report, the country’s traffic woes are a good news-bad news story. On the one hand, “A stable U.S. economy, continued urbanization of major cities, and factors such as employment growth and low gas prices have all contributed to increased traffic in 2016.” On the other hand, “Congestion also costs our country hundreds of billions of dollars, threatens future economic growth and lowers our quality of life.”

For travelers, the takeaway is in the lower quality of life, as there’s a clear link between the most congested cities and the most popular tourist destinations. Bottom line: Travelers visiting car-choked cities should expect to spend some of their precious vacation time sitting in traffic alongside commuting locals.

Reader Reality Check

How much of your travel time is wasted sitting in traffic?

After 20 years working in the travel industry, and almost that long writing about it, Tim Winship knows a thing or two about travel. Follow him on Twitter @twinship.

This article first appeared on SmarterTravel.com, where Tim is Editor-at-Large.


  1. Brian Cohen says

    The study is flawed because it supposedly only includes 38 countries in the world and leaves out ones such as China and Japan — meaning that cities such as Shanghai and Tokyo were not included in the survey.

  2. Tim Winship says

    Not really a flaw; it’s a self-imposed limitation of scope. As is noted in the study, data from Japan and China were not included because Inrix doesn’t have data-collection capabilities in those countries.

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