Is there anything worse than being stuck in traffic? It makes you late, makes you miss events, and makes you angry beyond belief. Sometimes, you feel like you’ll be stuck in your car on the freeway until the end of time. And depending on what city you’re in, you might—just kidding.
So, because you and everyone else is concerned about traffic situations in big cities across the country, we’ve put together a list of the best and worst cities for traffic. We looked at social listening and analyzed official studies from companies like INRIX (the “leader for transportation analytics”). You’ll be surprised by some and not by others.
1. Greensboro, North Carolina
All major cities have their traffic issues, but some, like Greensboro, North Carolina, have theirs figured out better than others. Maybe it’s because they have a lower population than other big cities or maybe it’s because the people prefer some other form of transportation. Either way, the residents of Greensboro spend around four hours annually stuck in traffic. That’s a lot better than people in other cities who may spend up to four hours a day stuck behind an endless line of brake lights on the freeway.
Lincoln, Nebraska: one of the best cities to drive in, home of the mighty Cornhuskers, the Nebraska State Capitol, and a more-than-manageable traffic situation. Because you won’t be spending the majority of your time sitting in your rental car on Interstate 80—average commute times during peak hours are around 20 minutes—you’ll be able to explore the Sunken Gardens, the Sheldon Museum of Art, and a long list of dining and shopping options.
3. Madison, Wisconsin
Something’s up with Midwest state capitals, because we haven’t been able to find one with less-than-desirable traffic conditions. You know, the type that makes you want to slam on your horn and pull your hair out simultaneously. Madison residents top out at around nine hours per-year sitting in traffic. Compared to other cities across the country and around the world, that’s like a nanosecond. You’ll have plenty of time to make it to Camp Randall Stadium for a Badgers football game or to The Old Fashioned for brats and cheese.
You won’t have to worry about making it to Cain’s Ballroom in time for the first act, because Tulsa, Oklahoma, has minimal traffic. Even during rush hour, the maximum commute time is anywhere between 18 and 20 minutes. On an annual level, the people in this city spend only about 9-10 hours behind the wheel of their vehicles. So, not only will you have time to make it to Cain’s to dance the night away, but you’ll also be able to explore other attractions throughout the city in a timely fashion.
5. Toledo, Ohio
You’d think that getting from Shoreland to Downtown Toledo, Ohio, during rush hour would take at least an hour on Interstate 75, but wait just a second. According to current statistics, peak commute times during the busiest time of day are around 19 minutes. That’s just a tad shorter than an episode of “Seinfeld.” And just enough time to make it for happy hour.
Year after year, Los Angeles, California, is consistently ranked, if not at the top, near the top of lists of cities with the worst traffic in America. Hey, it’s the second-most populous city in the country and these people have to get to where they’re going somehow. How do they get to where they’re going? The 405, the 101, the 10, the 5, and the 110. And that’s just a small sample of the congested highways that crisscross L.A.
With a population close to nine million people, it’s no wonder why New York City is the third most traffic-congested city on earth and the second worst in America. Whether you’re behind the wheel of your own car or in the backseat of a yellow taxi cab, you’re going to be stuck in gridlock in the “Big Apple.” Part of that reason is because four out of the ten most jammed traffic corridors in the U.S. exist here. Luckily for you and whoever you’re traveling with, NYC has one of, if not the greatest, subway systems in the Western Hemisphere.
Topping out at number three on our cities with the worst traffic list is that “City by the Bay” that happens to also be the fifth worst congested in the world. San Francisco has always had a bad traffic problem, but now with all the young tech billionaires inhabiting the city, the scene is a little different. Now, there are almost as many Teslas zipping up and down Lombard Street and Pacific Ave as there are taxi cabs. A recent study showed that drivers in the Bay Area spent an average of three days sitting in traffic last year. Imagine what you could do with those three days back?
It’s easy for Southern hospitality to go out the window while stuck in gridlock. Letting in that minivan from the next lane will be the last thing on your mind when you’re trying to get from Downtown to Midtown—a distance of 2.4 miles—and Google Maps is estimating closer to an hour-and-a-half. Also, this city is notorious for not being able to handle the South’s infamous ice storms. So if you find yourself on the road during one of these bad boys, you better come strapped with a pair of ice skates.
Capital cities around the world are traffic-jam cores and our beloved District of Columbia is no exception. The roadways in and around the Beltway are jam-packed at peak rush hour times with foreign dignitaries, congress people, senators, and plenty of regular folk. In fact, the statistics from a study done by INRIX transportation analytics show that during those peak times, D.C. commuters spend about 63 hours a year behind the wheel. That’s a lot of time that could be spent wandering the halls of the Smithsonian or jogging around the National Mall.
Traffic is a part of daily life and will never go away, but it does help to know about the average traffic situations in some of our biggest and most well-known cities. Hopefully, we’ve given you a bit of insight into what cities have the best and worst traffic in America.
When you do find yourself stuck in gridlock, check out our list of the best podcasts to keep you calm in traffic.