Everyone complains about too many cars on the road, but some places have truly miserable car culture. Each year, Inrix, a company that specializes in collecting traffic data, creates a national traffic scorecard, and this year they've tallied some winners (well, losers).
This year, Inrix says that America is back on the road to gridlock. Data from 2010 showed monthly increases in traffic congestion on the nation's roads, which translated into a 10 percent increase in travel times for drivers. Inrix also reports that new analysis into the nation's worst traffic offenders finds that drivers traveling our nation's 10 worst traffic corridors annually spend an average of one month idle in traffic each year.
Read on for the worst places to drive and get stuck in the U.S.
Houston starts our list of jammy cities. One reason for the backups? Houston's metro area is huge, meaning a lot of roadway and a lot of people. Houston's Loop 610, which surrounds this area, accounts 189 hours of bottleneck congestion weekly, and speeds of 21.9 mph in the crunch.
San Francisco improved one spot in 2010 to sixth place, so perhaps traffic congestion in the Bay Area is getting better. Or, more people are taking the bus. In 2007, drivers spent 71 hours per year in slow-moving traffic in SF, while in 2010 it was only 49 hours per year. While some Bay Area leaders cite the local investment in transportation improvements such as carpool lanes and efforts to widen highways as the main factor for the congestion decrease, others say that a struggling economy continues to keep more people at home.
Dallas snags the title for the fifth slowest metro area during rush hour. Fortunately for the citizens of Texas, congestion here is confined to the direct areas around the city, but it can still be painfully slow according to the survey, Dallas drivers spend 36 percent more time stuck in traffic at 5:15 p.m. on weekdays than it normally would take to complete an average trip at any other time of day or night. Just remember, the best time to take a trip in Dallas is between 9 a.m. and 10 a.m. on Fridays so get everything done in an hour and then hide out for the rest of the week.
Our national capitol ranked fourth on the list of traffic drags, and it could be by the city's design. One 23-mile stretch of roadway on I-95 south between Capital Beltway and Quantico should take 23 minutes to cruise through, according to Inrix. Instead, it takes 86 minutes on Friday afternoons and that's just accounting for the normal traffic flow, not unusual accidents.
Not to be outdone by its coastal colleagues, Chicago ranks number three in the list of most congested metro areas. The worst time to be hitting the roads in the windy city? According to the research, it's 5:15 p.m. on Fridays when the average trip takes 41 percent longer. Chicago-area bottlenecks account for 21 of the top-100 worst jams in America, with one area, the Mannheim Road exit on the Eisenhower freeway popping up in the top 10.
Also no big surprise, New York ranked just short of having the worst traffic congestion in the country. You can attribute a lot of that to it being home of the number one-ranked bottleneck in the country, the stretch of I-95 in New York. NYC has two other top-10 car-maddening places, but they city also boasts a fine public transport system, so do everyone a favor and stay off the roads, okay?
If you want to visit a city that's literally going nowhere, come on out to the beautiful west coast gem of Los Angeles. For a city wholly reliant on car transport, LA has some awful road design out of the 10 worst bottlenecks in the country, LA boasts five of them. Evening delays were the pits, with average speeds on the worst freeways crawling at around 13 miles per hour. At that speed, take a bike!
You can follow Katherine Gammon on Twitter @kategammon.