Gridlock in the U.S. Hits Bottom According to INRIX National Traffic Scorecard

Study shows increases in travel time in first half of 2009 due to stabilizing economy, stimulus-funded road construction and low fuel prices

INRIX®, a leading provider of traffic and navigation services in North America, today announced a mid-year INRIX National Traffic Scorecard special report, which found that traffic gridlock, during peak periods on major roads in urban America, had reached its low point in the second quarter of 2009 and has now started to increase. Traffic congestion across the country is rising due to signs of economic recovery, initial rollouts of highway construction projects funded by federal stimulus packages, and lower fuel prices. In fact, 64 of the top 100 most populated cities in the U.S. experienced increases in traffic congestion levels in early 2009. The annual INRIX Scorecard contains the most accurate and current information in the country regarding overall congestion and bottlenecks on America’s major roadways, and is compiled using tens of billions of data points from INRIX’s network of over one million GPS-enabled cars and trucks traveling across nearly one million miles of roads.

An especially interesting nugget from the Scorecard showed that Las Vegas experienced the biggest increase (2.4%) in travel times during peak commute periods year-over-year, most likely due to major construction along I-15 that began in the Summer of 2008. Other noteworthy increases include Baton Rouge (1.9%) – which was the only region that experienced travel time increases in 2008 – and Washington, DC (1.8%) – seemingly unaffected by the nation’s economic turmoil of the past year. Cities with the largest decrease in travel times include Ogden, UT (-5.6%), Bridgeport, CT (-4.5%), San Francisco (-2.8%), San Diego (-2.7%) and Chicago (-2.7%). Reasons for the drops in each region vary, for example, the completion of a major road construction project in late 2008 and improved winter weather in 2009 contributed to Ogden’s decrease, and softer economic conditions hit Chicago, where unemployment surpassed 11% in June 2009.

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) in New York City remains the worst bottleneck in the nation, where traffic crawls more than 90 hours each week at an average of only 11 MPH.

“Traffic congestion decreased over the past 18 months and hit bottom in the second quarter of 2009. Now, our nation’s roadways are starting to jam up again,” said Bryan Mistele, INRIX president and CEO. “Traffic is a great indicator of the pulse of the economy and as the economy improves we expect gridlock to head towards 2007’s record levels as people return to work, freight transportation increases, and consumers switch back to vacations from staycations.“

By analyzing traffic on major highways in the nation’s 100 largest metropolitan areas, the Scorecard provides the most comprehensive and national scale glimpse into the intractable issues of urban traffic congestion. According to the report, the top 10 most congested cities in the first half of 2009 were:

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

Additionally, available for the first time anywhere, INRIX analyzed information from its vast data warehouse to provide a snapshot of commercial freight traffic concentration. As a result, INRIX found that while the nation’s busiest long haul freight roadways cut across 28 states, more than 95% of this mileage comes from just 10 states – including Arkansas, Georgia, Tennessee and Texas. Roads that serve as thoroughfares in the middle of the country – such as I-40, I-75, I-81 and I-35 – show more relative long haul freight usage in general than the roads at the edges of the country, such as I-5 and I-95.

“Our findings highlight the national interconnectivity of the truck and highway portion of our national freight system and demonstrate that changes in freight movement trends and the effects of system improvements can have a significant impact on overall traffic congestion,” said Rick Schuman, vice president of public sector, INRIX. “The analysis highlights that long haul freight movement is spread equally between urban and rural roadways, underscoring that the development of a national freight strategy to optimize highway network efficiency and reliability – for both trucks and passenger vehicles – is in the interest of both rural and urban constituencies.”

The State Of Traffic:
  • The typical urban commuter sits 30 hours a year in slow traffic •
  • Los Angeles has the nation’s highest metropolitan travel times during peak commute hours, followed closely by Honolulu. Drivers in both cities spend an extra nine minutes on the roads for what would be a 30 minute commute without traffic. •
  • Washington, DC moved up to 3rd (from 6th in the first half of 2008) with drivers losing over six minutes on average for 30 minute commutes. •
  • L.A., D.C. and Dallas were the only cities in the Top 10 that experienced increased congestion •
  • Among the most congested cities in terms of travel times, Baton Rouge’s ranking saw the biggest jump, moving from 22nd in 2008 to 13th. San Diego had the biggest drop, from 13th to 19th, with commuters in both cities losing 30-40 minutes per week stuck in traffic. •
  • Delays in evening peak commute periods were higher than their corresponding morning peak periods every weekday. Wednesday, 8-9 a.m. continues as the busiest morning peak hour nationwide and Friday, 5-6 p.m. continues as the busiest evening peak hour – when commutes that would take drivers 60 minutes with no traffic, are now taking 70-71 minutes on average. •
  • Across the country off-peak periods – mid-days, evenings, overnights and weekends – generally showed small increases in travel times from 2008 to 2009, likely indicating that work zones from construction and maintenance activities have increased. This is a signal that “stimulus projects” are starting to have a noticeable impact. •
  • Over 2,500 miles of the nation’s most important thoroughfares are reliably congested more than five hours each week – an hour each work day. Over 400 of these miles experience more than 4 hours of congestion each workday.

    How Commuters Can Avoid Traffic The good news for consumers is that there are now plenty of information sources to help them deal with traffic. Real-time traffic information is now available on services like Ford SYNC with Traffic, Directions, and Information; the new highly-acclaimed INRIX Traffic! free iPhone application; AT&T Navigator;; 3D traffic forecasts on local broadcast TV stations; and hundreds of mobile applications.

    INRIX is continually exploring 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 February 2009, INRIX published its second 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 2008 traffic information. The company also released its first Scorecard Special Report, The Impact of Fuel Prices on Consumer Behavior and Traffic Congestion, in October of last year, analyzing how volatile fuel prices affected traffic and consumer driving habits.

    For more information about traffic in your city or to see the complete National Traffic Scorecard, visit: and to view videos about the report go to

    About INRIX INRIX® is the leading provider of traffic and navigation services in North America. Built on a foundation that includes the world’s largest crowd-sourced traffic network, INRIX intelligently blends traffic information from hundreds of sources to enable informed driving decisions and deliver smart solutions that advance our customers’ and partners’ businesses.

    INRIX crowd sources data from over one million GPS-enabled vehicles and mobile devices. INRIX provides the broadest, most accurate and reliable real-time traffic and navigation services for more than 160,000 miles of highways and arterial roadways in North America and over 50,000 kilometers across 6 European countries, with real-time incident coverage for 16 European countries. Over 80 customers rely on INRIX for their personal navigation, mapping and location based service applications in the car, online and on mobile devices for consumers requiring traffic and navigation information anytime, anywhere. To experience the traffic technology revolution behind the next generation of navigation and location-based service applications, visit or follow INRIX on Twitter at

  • Published Wednesday, September 2nd, 2009

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