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March 2018

Congestion costs earn Seattle a dubious ranking

It only seems worse. Congestion in Seattle cost the typical driver 55 hours during peak drive times in 2017, about the same as in 2016. Eight other urban areas in the U.S. are worse off, according to the Annual Global Traffic Scorecard from INRX, a transportation research firm.

Measured by dollars, researchers peg the economic impact of Seattle's congestion during 2017 at $5 billion, or about $1,853 per driver. That represents a 17 percent increase in direct and indirect costs when compared to 2016. (Direct costs relate to the value of fuel and time wasted, and indirect costs refer to freight and business fees from company vehicles idling in traffic, which are passed on to households through higher prices.)

The cost of congestion nationwide totaled nearly $305 Billion in 2017, an average of 41 hours and $1,445 per driver.

The U.S., with nearly 211 million cars, accounted for 10 of the top 25 cities worldwide with the worst traffic congestion. Four of the 10 most congested cities worldwide are in the U.S. Joining Los Angeles were New York City (tied for 2nd), San Francisco (5th), Atlanta (8th) and Miami (10th). 

In Los Angeles, which retained its rank as the world's most gridlocked city for the sixth consecutive year, drivers spent 102 hours in congestion during peak travel times, tallying a cost of $19.2 billion. On a per driver allocation, it equaled $2,828. That's nearly 53 percent higher than Seattle's.

10 Most Congested Urban Areas in the U.S.

2017 Rank
(2016 Rank)
Urban Area

2017 Peak Hours
in Congestion
(% of 2016 change)
% of Total
Drive Time

in Congestion
Total Cost
Per Driver

in 2017
Total Cost
to the City

in 2017

1 (1)

Los Angeles, CA

102 (-2%)


$ 2,828


2 (2)

New York City, NY

91 (+2%)


$ 2,982


3 (3)

San Francisco, CA

79 (-5%)


$ 2,250


4 (4)

Atlanta, GA

70 (-1%)


$ 2,212


5 (5)

Miami, FL

64 (-2%)


$ 2,072


6 (6)

Washington, DC

63 (+3%)


$ 2,060


7 (8)

Boston, MA

60 (+3%)


$ 2,086


8 (9)

Chicago, IL

57 (0%)


$ 1,994


9 (10)

Seattle, WA

55 (0%)


$ 1,853


10 (7)

Dallas, TX

54 (-8%)


$ 1,674


Source: INRIX

For the third straight year, the (I-95) Cross Bronx Expressway in New York City tops the INRIX list of worst corridors, with the average driver on the 4.7 mile stretch wasting 118 hours per year in congestion, an increase of 37 percent over last year.

In its "In and Out of Cities" analysis, INRIX reported commuters around Everett, Washington spent more time stuck in traffic than anyone else, with a congestion rate of 28 percent on highways in and out of the city.

The South claimed the quickest flow of traffic, with the top five fastest non-contested highway speeds during peak periods all in the South. Florida boasts the highest uncongested average speeds during 2017, led by Fort Myers where drivers moved at an average of 68 mph.

"Congestion costs the U.S. hundreds of billions of dollars, and threatens future economic growth and lowers our quality of life," said Dr. Graham Cookson, Chief Economist at INRIX. "If we're to avoid traffic congestion becoming a further drain on our economy, we must invest in intelligent transportation systems to tackle our mobility challenges."

INRIX analyzed 500 Terabytes of data from 300 million connected cars and devices. Its report covered 5 million miles of road in 1,360 cities across 38 countries worldwide. Data for the 2017 Global Scorecard is the congested or uncongested status of every segment of road for all times of the day.

Based in Kirkland, INRIX, Inc. is considered the world leader in transportation analytics and connected car services. Its data and analytics on traffic, parking, and population movement help city planners and engineers make data-based decisions to prioritize spending.