These Are the World’s Most Congested Cities - BLOOMBERG
JANUARY 10, 2023
You aren’t imagining it. Traffic is back to pre-Covid levels in many cities—and in some places it’s even worse.
Traffic is back. While lockdowns and home-working might have quietened our streets through the pandemic, traffic levels are now at or above pre-Covid levels in many cities across the world.
The worst cities in the world for traffic are found in the US and Europe, according to a report by INRIX Research, a transport research company. The group found that 42% of urban areas in Europe had more congestion than before the pandemic, and 39% in the US. The UK was particularly awful, with 72% of urban areas seeing more congestion.
In the UK, the typical driver spent 80 hours in traffic in 2022, compared to 51 hours in the US.
Bob Pishue, who wrote the report, said that despite it being “great to see civic and commercial life returning to normal” jams are “inching closer to, if not exceeding, pre-pandemic levels.” He added: “We must manage congestion while improving mobility and accessibility in cities to avoid it hurting economic recovery and impacting the quality of life of commuters and residents.”
These were the five worst-congested cities in the world in 2022, in ascending order.
5. New York
Three of the top five entries in 2022 were in the US, with New York ranking as the third-worst in the country. Drivers in New York spent an average of 117 hours stuck in traffic, at a cost of $1,976 each in increased fuel use and time wasted.
New York could be the first city in the US to introduce congestion pricing, with a proposal that could be launched as soon as the end of the year. The program would charge some motorists as much as $23 a day to drive in Manhattan, south of 60th Street. The idea was described as “politically and economically explosive,” by Municipal Market Analytics’s Matt Fabian and Lisa Washburn in a research note published last year.
Drivers in the Massachusetts capital each lost an average of 134 hours waiting in jams, equating to a cost of $2,270 per person. There was a huge 72% increase in hours lost to traffic in 2022 compared to the year before, when the city had ranked 18th in the world, according to the report.
Like some European cities, Boston has a historic downtown area that is not particularly suitable for car traffic, with narrow lanes.
Last year had particular transport difficulties in Boston, with the Orange Line train that runs through the city’s center closed for 30 days for repairs. In recent years, a commission to study congestion pricing was proposed, although the idea was vetoed by then Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker in 2021.
Drivers lost 138 hours in traffic in the French capital in 2022, making it the second-worst city in Europe.
Traffic is a long-running problem in the city, where the center has many narrow and cobbled streets. In 2022, roads moved at an average of 11 miles per hour in the center of town.
However, the city has ambitious plans to transform its roads and become one of the most cycling-friendly places in Europe. Under “Plan Vélo: Act 2,” Paris will gain 180 kilometers (112 miles) of permanent and segregated bicycle lanes by 2026 and 180,000 more bike parking spots.
The Illinois city ranked worst in the US for traffic, with drivers wasting an average of 155 hours on it last year. This was a jump of 49% from 2021, when Chicago ranked sixth for traffic in the world.
Traffic cost each driver an average of $2,618 in 2022, with drivers on the slowest-moving roads in the city center averaging just 11 miles per hour in 2022, compared to 15mph before Covid. The city’s roads have been badly affected by remote work schedules, which make it hard to predict traffic with people driving at all times of the day, according to CBS.
The British capital was found to be the most congested city in the world for the second year in a row, with drivers spending an average of 156 hours stuck in traffic in 2022, up 5% since before Covid. This came at a cost of $5.7 billion to the city, or £1,377 for each driver, according to the report.
The five corridors to avoid in the UK were all in London. First among them was a stretch of the A219 in west London, which saw drivers waste 47 hours in traffic in 2022. This was partly due to increased pressure on the road given the ongoing closure of Hammersmith Bridge.
London is set to expand its controversial Ultra Low Emissions Zone (ULEZ) scheme this summer. Under ULEZ, owners of older, higher-emitting cars are charged £12.50 ($15.22) a day to drive in the inner boroughs of London. In August, ULEZ will be expanded to cover the entirety of the city, despite 59% of Londoners opposing the move, according to consultation documents. In outer London, 70% of respondents opposed the extension.
ULEZ is, however, backed by several experts, who say that it can help to cut air pollution. England’s chief medical officer, Chris Whitty, backed the policy at a press conference in December, when he said ULEZ so far had been “a win for absolutely everybody, including the people driving the cars.”