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The 10 Cities with the Worst Traffic in the U.S.

How much of your precious vacation time are you willing to sacrifice to traffic congestion? That’s a question you should ask yourself before booking a rental car in any of the following cities, which have the worst traffic in the U.S. according to a study by INRIX, a “leader in mobility analytics and connected car services.”

The Worst Traffic in the U.S. Is In…

INRIX reports that the most traffic-congested city in the U.S. is Boston, where drivers lose an average of 149 hours a year to congestion. Things aren’t much better in Chicago, where commuters slogged through 145 hours of congestion each year.

Which U.S. cities were the worst? According to the 2019 Global Traffic Scorecard, the 10 most congested American cities, and the number of annual hours lost to congestion (read: stuck in traffic), were:

  1. Boston – 149 hours
  2. Chicago – 145 hours
  3. Philadelphia – 142 hours
  4. New York City – 140 hours
  5. Washington, D.C. – 124 hours
  6. Los Angeles – 103 hours
  7. San Francisco – 97 hours
  8. Portland, Oregon – 89 hours
  9. Baltimore – 84 hours
  10. Atlanta – 82 hours

Note that the cities were ranked not only by total hours lost to congestion but also other factors such as the cost of congestion per driver.

For travelers, there’s a clear link between congested cities and popular tourist destinations. You’ll want to consider timing your sightseeing to avoid rush hour and using public transportation (or walking) instead of driving while on vacation in these cities.

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The Worst U.S. Routes for Traffic Congestion

INRIX also identified America’s most congested roads, and the I-5 in Los Angeles between the I-10 and the I-605 took home this dubious honor. Los Angeles also claimed the number two spot, with the stretch of the 101 between the 134 and the 110. New York City’s Brooklyn Queens Expressway and I-95 claimed the third and fourth spot, and Atlanta’s I-85 rounded out the top five most congested U.S. roads in 2019.

The Worst Traffic Cities in the World

If you think Boston’s delays are bad, you might want to give Bogota and a miss. The Colombian capital was the most congested city in the world, with drivers sitting through a whopping 191 hours of delays a year. Other traffic-choked cities around the world include Rio de Janeiro, Mexico City, Istanbul, and Sao Paulo, with annual hours lost to congestion topping 150 in each.

Do you take local traffic conditions into consideration when choosing trip destinations?

Expecting Traffic? Boost Your Safety With a Car Mount

Car Mount Holder

Navigating foreign cities is difficult enough without the traffic. Having a car mount to deter distractions and mitigate risk of an accident is pivotal for these trips- long or short.

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Editor’s note: This story was originally published in 2018. It has been updated to reflect the most current information. Tim Winship contributed to this story.

By Sarah Schlichter

Deputy Executive Editor Sarah Schlichter's idea of a perfect trip includes spotting exotic animals, hiking through pristine landscapes, exploring new neighborhoods on foot, and soaking up as much art as she can. She often attempts to recreate recipes from her international travels after she gets home (which has twice resulted in accidental kitchen fires—no humans or animals were harmed).

Sarah joined the SmarterTravel team in 2017 after more than a decade at the helm of IndependentTraveler.com. Sarah's practical travel advice has been featured in dozens of news outlets including the New York Times, the Chicago Tribune, USA Today, Budget Travel, and Peter Greenberg Worldwide Radio. Follow her on Twitter @TravelEditor.

The Handy Item I Always Pack: "A journal. Even years later, reading my notes from a trip can bring back incredibly vivid memories."

Ultimate Bucket List Experience: "Road tripping and hiking through the rugged mountains of Patagonia."

Travel Motto: "'To awaken quite alone in a strange town is one of the pleasantest sensations in the world.'—Freya Stark"

Aisle, Window, or Middle Seat: "Aisle. I get restless on long flights and like to be able to move around without disturbing anyone else."

Email Sarah at sschlichter@smartertravel.com.

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