Cars stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic, with all their brake lights showing. A cute small dog is looking out of the passenger window of the nearest vehicle.
Delivery Experience

These U.S. Cities Had The Worst Traffic Last Year

July 19, 2022

Nobody likes traffic backups. The experience of sitting bumper-to-bumper is frustrating for a number of reasons, from running late for work or picking up the kids to simply feeling stuck with nothing you can do about it. Most people tend to do what they can to avoid the experience of sitting in traffic by timing their commutes to avoid rush hour and planning alternate routes, among other tactics.

Using data from the 2021 Global Traffic Scorecard, Routific identified the worst 25 cities in the U.S. for traffic delays and calculated how much those delays cost drivers based on the metro’s median hourly wage. Commute times were calculated by looking exclusively at the time it takes to get to and from major employment centers, based on anonymized GPS data to find commuting patterns.

In some cities, sitting in traffic is simply unavoidable. Traffic congestion is caused by several factors, among them the road grid (how a given road system is laid out); the density of the environment in terms of residents, businesses, and popular attractions; the availability (or lack thereof) of public transportation options; and the sheer volume of cars and trucks on the road. For many cities, commuting slowed during the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, but traffic congestion returned as Americans eased out of restrictions.

One pandemic lifestyle habit that seems here to stay is online shopping: From March 2020 to February 2022, Americans spent a staggering $1.7 trillion on e-commerce, according to Adobe Analytics. With millions of online purchases moving back and forth across the country, it’s only added to daily congestion. More truck drivers are on roadways shipping goods to warehouses—and more delivery drivers are in neighborhoods distributing parcels every day. Expect more in the future as the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that demand for delivery truck drivers will increase by 12%—faster than the average growth of all occupations—with 190,700 jobs available each year for the next decade.  

Growth and expansion of a given urban area is also a significant contributor, as population growth often exceeds a city’s ability to grow its transportation system to meet the demand. Some of the most prevalent examples of the past few years are the cities of Dallas, Phoenix, and Houston—all of which are on this list and among the 10 most populous cities in the country.

If you live in a major city, odds are your town is on this list—but there are a few surprises for those who think smaller means easier to get around. In our data points highlighted below, the time loss is calculated by analyzing peak speed and free-flow speed data for the busiest commuting corridors. The annual added cost data was calculated based on the 2021 median hourly wage in the metro area according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Traffic congestion at a freeway onramp in Phoenix,  Arizona.

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#25. Phoenix, Arizona

Night-time view of a busy highway in San Antonio, Texas.

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#24. San Antonio, Texas

A busy freeway in Sacramento, California. There is an overpass in the background, with some tall fir trees behind it.

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23. Sacramento, California

Night-time view of Las Vegas, Nevada. There is a strip of palm trees down the middle of a busy road, flanked by brightly lit casinos.

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#22. Las Vegas, Nevada

Traffic backed up on vertically stacked three-lane highways in Seattle, Washington.

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#21. Seattle, Washington

A view of a packed highway leading into downtown Austin, Texas. There are tall buildings in the background and the highway is flanked by grassy banks.

Philip Lange // Shutterstock

#20. Austin, Texas

A back-up highway in San Diego, California. A sign says "San Diego Convention Centre |Next Exit".

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#19. San Diego, California

Nighttime view of a busy road in Baltimore, Maryland. Lights are visible in tall buildings on either side of the road, and there is a cloud of mist or steam over the road.

photosounds // Shutterstock

#18. Baltimore, Maryland

A highway in Providence, Rhode Island, clogged with bumper-to-bumper across three lanes in both directions.

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#17. Providence, Rhode Island

A wide highway in Concord, California, with five lanes of traffic in each direction. In the background are palm trees and a bright blue sky.

Canva

#16. Concord, California

A man walks across a mud-and-snow-covered intersection in Denver, Colorado. Four backed-up lanes of traffic are waiting.

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#15. Denver, Colorado

Five busy lanes of traffic in Washington, DC. Over the highway is a cluster of signs pointing to various exits and destinations.

Drew Angerer // Getty Images

#14. Washington D.C.

Aerial view of a highway in Dallas, Texas. There are six lanes of traffic in each direction. The lane running from the bottom to the top of the picture is backed up with bumper-to-bumper traffic.

Philip Lange // Shutterstock

#13. Dallas, Texas

Highway through Stamford, Connecticut, clogged with traffic across three lanes in both directions. The highway is lined with grass and green deciduous trees.

barbsimages // Shutterstock

#12. Stamford, Connecticut

Busy urban street in Portland, Oregon. The street is lined with tall buildings and trees showing blossoms or fresh spring leaves. The road is dominated by car traffic.

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#11. Portland, Oregon

Aerial view of a major highway intersection in Atlanta, Georgia. Four multi-land roads cross from left to right, and one multi-lane highway crosses them on a bridge. Some buildings are visible in the top right-hand quadrant and there are trees on the fringes, but most of the area visible is roads.

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#10. Atlanta, Georgia

Soft-focus view of cars on a highway in Houston, Texas. The dominant impression is of red brake lights and sunlight glinting off cars.

Trong Nguyen // Shutterstock

#9. Houston, Texas

Aerial view of a large cloverleaf intersection in Los Angeles, California.

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#8. Los Angeles, California

A road in New Orleans, Louisiana. At right people in summer clothes walk past a row of trees. At left is a road backup up with traffic.

Konoplytska // Shutterstock

#7. New Orleans, Louisiana

Traffic on the Golden Gate bridge in San Francisco, California.

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#6. San Francisco, California

Aerial view of Miami, Florida. A palm-lined road in the foreground curves around a blue-water bay towards the city with tall towers in the background.

oksanatukane // Shutterstock

#5. Miami, Florida

A busy, tree-lined road in Boston, Massachussetts.

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#4. Boston, Massachusetts

A stream of cars and trucks passes under a bridge in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. All have their red brake lights on.

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#3. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

A clogged highway in New York. Signs across the road read, from left to right: "Queens, Bronx"; "Broadway East"; and "Bway West to 278 West, Staten Island, Exit Only".

Ryan DeBerardinis // Shutterstock

#2. New York City, New York

An urban road in Chicago is choked with traffic across four lanes in both directions. The road is lined with grass and tall trees, and tall buildings are visible in the background.

GagliardiPhotography // Shutterstock

#1. Chicago, Illinois

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Elizabeth Jackson

Elizabeth Jackson is a journalist and writer. She covers health, politics, culture, and the arts for a variety of digital and print publications.