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Where Do I Go? Traffic Situation around Large Cities

Published July 6, 2012

Traffic is a major concern for driving in a big city. A lot of people will go against purchasing a car, especially a manual transmission, if you live in some of the extremely crowded cities around the country, such as New York City. I’ve compiled a list of large cities around the country with the best traffic situation.

Varying population densities and development patterns in the nation’s cities make gagging efficiency difficult. In Boston, for example, jobs are mostly concentrated in and around the city center. In Los Angeles, offices are more spread out. That means Boston’s commuter rail and “T” systems, part of the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA), are better able to put area commuters closer to their jobs than an identical train system could do for Los Angeles commuters.

The Department of Transportation measures capacity by looking at highway miles per 10,000 people. Los Angeles ranks near the bottom, with 4.73 miles of highway per 10,000 people. Houston, near the top, has 9.54 miles of highway per 10,000 people, and even a dense metro like San Francisco has 5.86 highway miles per 10,000 people.

Congestion results in places that don’t have enough highway miles to handle the commuting population. To show lost time, we used Texas Transportation Institute data to rank each city by how many hours the average traveler was delayed per year as the result of traffic.

In cities boasting such factors, like Buffalo, N.Y., Salt Lake City and Milwaukee, the trip to work is a breeze. But for commuters in Atlanta, Detroit and here in Miami, the daily grind is just that, thanks to bad traffic, insufficient infrastructure and drivers who resist carpools and public transportation.

Other spots that came out on top include Oklahoma City, OK, Pittsburgh, PA, Corpus Christi, TX, and Eugene, OR. At the bottom: Orlando, FL, Dallas,TX, Birmingham, AL, and Raleigh, NC.

Boston scores a 23% by this measure, and Los Angeles checks in at 20%. In San Francisco, an extremely efficient city, 28% of the commuters take public transit, walk or carpool, while inefficient Kansas City, Mo., scores 12% by this measure.

To find them and others, we looked at the 75 largest metro areas in the U.S. and evaluated them based on traffic delays, travel times and how efficiently commuters use existing infrastructure, based on data from the Texas Transportation Institute and the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2006 American Community Survey. The worst commutes were those that ate up the most hours and were the least reliable. The best commutes were in cities with short, dependable treks to the office, where fellow commuters efficiently use transit options to reduce congestion.

Population plays an important role in an area’s commute. By definition, congestion is having too many commuters on the roads. The high-capacity highway system implemented in Buffalo by Robert Moses is indeed efficient, but population loss has almost as much to do with Buffalo workers’ easy commute as Moses’ design. In 1950, the City of Good Neighbors had quite a few more neighbors (580,000) than it does now (280,000)

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Calvin Escobar
About Calvin Escobar

The Car scene is so diverse Where I come from, most enthusiasts recognize the amazing engineering (particularly the engines). The bulk of the ridicule originates from the manner in which many of the vehicles are modded/maintained. Thus, the jokes and or hate tends to be aimed more at the owner rather than the machine. All of which makes seeing properly sorted old Toyota's and Hondas at car meets, auto shows, and track days all the more refreshing.

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