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Is There an Answer for Traffic Congestion?


FILE - Cars and public buses are seen in a traffic jam in Bogota, Columbia October 20, 2015. The city topped the list as the most congested city, with drivers losing 191 hours a year. (REUTERS/Jose Miguel Gomez/File Photo)
Is There an Answer for Traffic Congestion?
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Vehicle traffic is getting worse in the United States and many cities in the world, a recent study has found. But new policies in some cities have proven effective in reducing the number of vehicles on the road.

By cutting automobile travel, many cities are also cutting releases of pollutive waste gases and shortening the time it takes for people to get to work.

However, overall, drivers in 2019 spent more time trapped in traffic than in past years. INRIX Inc., a private business that studies transportation, released its yearly report on traffic last week.

INRIX ranked congestion in more than 900 cities worldwide.

FILE - In this slow-shutter zoom effect photo taken Dec. 12, 2018, commuters are backed up in traffic during the morning rush hour in Brussels, a city that regularly experiences pollution alert warnings.
FILE - In this slow-shutter zoom effect photo taken Dec. 12, 2018, commuters are backed up in traffic during the morning rush hour in Brussels, a city that regularly experiences pollution alert warnings.

In the United States, the report found that on average drivers lost 99 hours last year because of traffic congestion. That is an increase of two hours from 2017. The report also says congestion cost drivers nearly $88 billion in 2019, or an average of $1,377 each.

For the second year in a row, Boston, Massachusetts topped the list as the most congested city in the U.S. The average commuter lost 149 hours a year to traffic. That cost each driver $2,205 for time lost in congestion.

Coming up behind Boston on the U.S. list was Chicago, Illinois; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; New York City, New York and Washington, D.C.

Los Angeles, California historically has been known for bad traffic. But it ranked sixth in this report. Researchers say usual congestion does not have the same effect there because the area is so large and has a huge road system.

Worldwide, Bogota, Colombia, topped the list as the most congested city, with drivers losing 191 hours a year. Right behind was Rio de Janeiro in Brazil, with 190. Mexico City was third with 158 hours lost a year, followed by Istanbul, Turkey with 150. Behind them were Sao Paulo, Rome, Paris, London, Boston and Chicago.

Overall, the most congested cities are older cities or those growing quickly, INRIX reports.

Traffic travels along a highway next to Los Angeles, California, U.S. October 11, 2019.
Traffic travels along a highway next to Los Angeles, California, U.S. October 11, 2019.

The company says this shows that very fast urbanization is taking place in Latin America. And, INRIX says, some cities in Europe are not well-designed for automobile use.

The report found Wichita, Kansas, had the lowest levels of congestion. Drivers there lost less than two hours a year in traffic.

INRIX collected and studied location data from car makers, mobile apps and freight drivers. The data did not identify drivers themselves.

Trevor Reed, an INRIX researcher wrote the report. He said congestion fees on drivers in the British and Swedish capitals, and in Singapore, have reduced car traffic considerably.

New York plans to add congestion fees in 2021. It would be the first U.S. city to do so. The fees might lead to fewer cars on roads.

Chicago and Los Angeles are studying possible use of such fees.

I’m Caty Weaver.

Anne Ball wrote this story with information from Reuters. Caty Weaver was the editor.

Do you have bad traffic in your city? Do you drive to work or take other transportation? What do you think of this story? Write to us in the comments section below.

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Words in This Story

rank – n. a position in a society, organization, group, etc.

congestion – adj. too full or crowded with something, like vehicles

commuter - n. a person who travels regularly to and from a place and especially between where you live and where you work

urbanization – n. the process by which towns and cities are formed and become larger as more and more people begin living and working in central areas

location – n. a place or position

freight – n. goods that are carried by ships, trains, trucks, or airplanes

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