- Boston drivers lose an estimated 164 hours a year to traffic congestion, which is the highest of any city in the nation, according to an annual analysis from transportation analytics company Inrix.
- The city was followed by Washington, DC (155 hours lost in traffic), Chicago (138), New York City (133) and Los Angeles (128). Globally, Moscow (210), Istanbul (157) and Bogota (272) were the most congested cities, when weighted for population.
- Overall, Inrix found that American drivers lost an average of 97 hours to congestion in 2018, which translated to $1,348 in lost productivity per driver.
Inrix’s annual rankings have traditionally put Los Angeles at the top of the worldwide congestion rankings, but the 2018 report tweaked the methodology to analyze the severity of congestion, not just time lost in traffic. That reshuffled the rankings, pushing Boston to the top. (Inrix did not respond to a request for more information regarding the methodology change in time for publication.) Interestingly, Boston's main highway, I-93, ranked seventh on the scorecard's "most congested U.S. roads" list, an indication that congestion is more spread out around the region.
Boston Mayor Marty Walsh criticized Inrix for “telling less than half the story” about the city’s traffic. In a Medium post, Walsh said that independent analysts have found the report "punishes older, denser cities, where distances are shorter and alternatives to driving are more plentiful." The high volume of commuters from suburbs, and the share of people in the city that take public transit or other alternative forms of transportation, hurt Boston in the rankings, Walsh said.
Regardless of methodology, Walsh said he does recognize Boston’s congestion problem, which his administration has taken head-on. The city’s Go Boston 2030 plan plans $4.7 billion in transportation projects that will prioritize mass transit and new mobility options over traditional driving, including a massive expansion of the city’s bikeshare system. Boston has also allowed a self-driving car pilot to expand citywide, setting the stage for the city to incorporate autonomous vehicles to help beat traffic woes (although a recent report found mixed effects for the city’s congestion with autonomous vehicles).
Some cities are even looking past offering new transportation options to explore the viability of more drastic measures like a congestion pricing scheme. New York Mayor Bill de Blasio has pitched a congestion pricing plan for vehicles going downtown that would support subway improvements, especially as more delivery vehicles are poised to amplify traffic.
Whatever the solutions, Inrix transportation analyst Trevor Reed said in a statement that more work is needed to “avoid traffic congestion becoming a further drain on our economy.” Congestion, he added, “will continue to have serious consequences for national and local economies, businesses and citizens in the years to come.”