Study that ranks 100 worst congested cities cites tumbling economy and fuel price volatility as causes for unprecedented decline in traffic congestion
INRIX, the leading provider of traffic information, today released its second annual INRIX National Traffic Scorecard, revealing a 30 percent decline in traffic congestion in 2008 during the peak periods on major roads in urban America. Overall the report found that 99 of the top 100 most populated cities in the U.S. experienced decreases in traffic congestion levels in 2008 as compared to the prior year. The Scorecard contains the most accurate and current information in the country regarding overall congestion and bottlenecks on nearly 50,000 miles of America’s major roadways, and is compiled using tens of billions of data points from INRIX’s network of nearly one million GPS-enabled cars and trucks traveling across over 800,000 miles of roads.
The report cites turbulent fuel prices and a struggling economy as sources for a consistent decline in overall traffic volume. Detroit, where the jobless rate climbed past 21 percent in 2008, saw the second largest decrease in congestion nationwide. Additionally, Riverside, Calif., which ranked third-highest in the nation in foreclosure activity during 2008, saw the highest drop in congestion of the nation’s larger regions.
"On average, Americans spent 13 hours less stuck in traffic in 2008 versus 2007," said Bryan Mistele, INRIX president and CEO. "While less traffic is generally good news, the causes of it aren’t necessarily something to celebrate. Traffic congestion is an excellent indicator of trends, telling us whether businesses are shipping products, whether people are going to work, and whether shoppers are going to the mall. The Scorecard provides an amazing lens through which we can see these and other major events unfolding across the country."
By analyzing traffic on major highways in the nation’s 100 largest metropolitan areas, the Scorecard informs the ongoing debate of one of the most frustrating and intractable issues: urban traffic congestion. How bad is congestion? Where is it worst? How has it changed? What can be done about it? The Scorecard provides the most comprehensive and national scale glimpse of the answers to these questions. According to the report, the top 10 most congested cities in 2008 were:
1. Los Angeles, California
2. New York, New York
3. Chicago, Illinois
4. Dallas, Texas
5. Washington, DC
6. Houston, Texas
7. San Francisco, California
8. Boston, Massachusetts
9. Seattle, Washington
10. Minneapolis, Minnesota
Among countless significant findings, the report found the following:
Los Angeles moved ahead of Honolulu with the highest metropolitan Travel Time Index (TTI), now 1.33 as compared to Honolulu’s 1.31.
San Diego saw the second largest decrease in congestion (tied with Detroit)
Minneapolis made the top 10 list for the first time (up from 13th) replacing Atlanta which dropped to 12th.
The nation’s worst bottleneck remained the same, a westbound stretch of the Cross Bronx Expressway/I-95 leading up to and including the Bronx River Parkway exit 4B interchange.
National congestion was lower every hour of every day in 2008 versus the year prior, 30 percent lower on average depending on the hour and day.
99 of the 100 regions studied saw congestion levels decrease. Baton Rouge, Louisiana, with a 6 percent increase in overall congestion, was the only region with an increase from 2007, shooting up in the metropolitan rankings from 47th to 33rd in overall congestion.
Friday from 5 to 6 p.m. remained America’s most congested hour of the week, although the Travel Time Index (TTI) fell 23 percent. Thursday from 5 to 6 p.m. ranked as the next most congested hour.
National congestion levels were essentially the same when comparing the first and second halves of 2008, suggesting that higher fuel prices in early 2008 and the slower economy later in the year netted the same drop in overall congestion.
Congestion during off-peak hours (outside of the AM and PM weekday commuting times) decreased by more than 36 percent, substantially outpacing the significant drop in peak hour congestion.
Wednesday saw the biggest drop in congestion, with a 31 percent overall decrease in peak hours.
Each weekday morning, peak hour congestion dropped much more than its corresponding evening peak hour congestion.
The report cautions becoming lax in pushing forth infrastructure developments due to the decrease in congestion this year, because when the economy improves and if fuel prices remain affordable, traffic will likely increase again.
"While we all should cheer the reduction in congestion in 2008, we should be under no illusion that this is permanent," said Rick Schuman, vice president of public sector, INRIX. "We must still continue to focus energies on policies and methods to reduce traffic."
INRIX is continually looking to find ways to help consumers, businesses and public officials better understand the many issues that can affect the flow of traffic and how to solve these problems in the future. In June 2008, INRIX published its first annual INRIX National Traffic Scorecard. The report was 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, all based upon calendar year 2007 traffic information. The company released its first Scorecard Special Report, The Impact of Fuel Prices on Consumer Behavior and Traffic Congestion, in October of last year, looking at how volatile fuel prices affected traffic and consumer driving habits. Special reports to the INRIX Scorecard focus on trends affecting traffic and will be released periodically. The second annual National Traffic Scorecard was created through extensive analysis of nearly 50,000 miles of primary roadways in major metropolitan areas, selected from INRIX’s traffic data warehouse of over 800,000 miles of roadways and 120 real-time markets in the U.S.
For more information about traffic in your city or to see the full National Traffic Scorecard, visit: http://inrix.com/scorecard/ and to view videos about the report go to http://YouTube.com/INRIXTraffic.
INRIXr is the leading provider of accurate real-time, historical and predictive traffic information in North America and Europe, with 68 customers and industry partners including Ford, TomTom, TeleNav, Networks in Motion, MapQuest, Microsoft, Clear Channel Radio’s Total Traffic Network, I-95 Corridor Coalition, Tele Atlas, deCarta, ITIS Holdings, Mio, Navigon, TCS, Telmap, ANWB, ARC Europe, and TNO. INRIX delivers the highest quality data and broadest coverage available for personal navigation, mapping, telematics and other location-based service applications in the car, online and on mobile devices.
INRIX Traffic Services leverage sophisticated statistical analysis techniques, originally developed by Microsoft Research, to aggregate and enhance traffic-related information from hundreds of public and private sources, including traditional road sensors and the company’s unique network of nearly a million GPS-enabled vehicles and cellular probes. INRIX delivers traffic information today for over 120 markets in North America and via ARC Europe for 16 European countries. To experience the traffic technology revolution behind the next generation of navigation and location-based service applications, visit www.INRIX.com.