20 cities with the worst traffic in North America

·Editor at Large

Traffic is more than just a nuisance: It eats valuable time spent with our family and friends, it increases our stress levels, and with the boredom leading to a rise in cell phone usage, it can be dangerous. And it's only getting worse, according to a new study by TomTom navigation. With congestion trending higher year-over-year, we can expect to spend even more of our day inhaling exhaust fumes while Ryan Seacrest spews love advice over the radio. And that's not a good thing at all.

By analyzing millions of TomTom users' travel times over many more millions of miles driven, the company has not only put together a list of the most congested cities in North America (and Hawaii), but dissects how different times and days affect the traffic's flow -- as well as a glimpse at how each city is evolving over the years. We reported TomTom's July 2012 study, and since that time, if you live in San Francisco or New York, you may be noticing your commute significantly worsening, whereas those in warmer climates -- like Miami, Tampa and Houston -- might be feeling some needed relief.

The TomTom North American Congestion Index

2013 Ranking

2012 Ranking

% delay from congestion

1.

Los Angeles

1

36% (+ 3%)

2.

Vancouver

2

35% (+ 5%)

3.

San Francisco

6

32% (+ 7%)

4.

Honolulu

Not Ranked

29%

5.

Seattle

4

27% (+ 2%)

6.

Toronto

9

27% (+ 5%)

7.

San José

Not Ranked

26%

8.

New York

15

26% (+ 9%)

9.

Ottawa, Canada

10

26% (+4%)

10.

Montreal

12

26% (+6%)

11.

Miami

3

24% (-2%)

12.

Washington D.C.

7

24% (N/C)

13.

Portland

Not Ranked

22%

14.

New Orleans

Not Ranked

22%

15.

Calgary, Canada

16

22% (+5%)

16.

Chicago

14

22% (+3%)

17.

Quebec, Canada

Not Ranked

22%

18.

Tampa

5

22% (-3%)

19.

Boston

19

21% (+5%)

20.

Houston

8

21% (-2%)

 

Los Angeles ranking as number one arrives with little surprise, but by comparing this year's report to the one from mid-2012, the increase of 3-percent in congestion is entirely down to a 6-percent increase in highway traffic. Non-highway backup has actually decreased by 3-percent. Still, for every hour spent on the road in peak traffic, a driver will lose on average 39 minutes. Over the course of year, if you have a 30 minute commute, you will spend a whopping 90 hours sitting in smog-infested misery.

L.A. has it easy compared to cities like Rio de Janeiro and Mexico City, however, where their average delay from congestion is 55-percent and 54-percent respectively. For Mexico City residents, that figure is welcomed, with its congestion percentage cresting 60 just 12 months ago. In Rio, for every hour traveled in peak traffic, 59 minutes are lost. Meaning a drive which should take one minute takes almost an hour.

TomTom analyzed 63 cities in total, up from 26 from mid-2012, including three cities -- Rio, Mexico City and São Paulo, which covered the top three sports -- that have not been included in our list above. The study shows that many of the cities researched vary wildly in terms of peak traffic days and times. On average, Thursday evening's commute is the worst, with Friday mornings offering an opportunity for a few extra minutes of shut-eye. And we all know how precious that is.

If you reside in one of the busier cities on the list and have finally had enough of spending three or more days a year sat in traffic, Kansas City or Indianapolis might make for the ideal location. Kansas City's average delay from congestion is just 9-percent, with a mere 4-percent of that occurring on the highway. And while Indy's average is 10-percent, on the highway, its tie-ups rank lowest at just 3-percent. As an Indy resident myself, I can attest that traffic is rarely an issue. Which means I spend less of my day listening to Ryan Seacrest on the radio and more time watching him on TV. You decide which is worse.

Find out where your city ranked by reading TomTom's full report here:

 

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