Commuting to work can be challenging no matter where you live, but urban sprawl, local geography, lack of city planning, and other factors can make commuting to and from work particularly painful in specific locations.
In 2021, the average American worker spent 52.6 minutes per day commuting round-trip, according to US Census data. And while that equates to nearly four and a half hours per week, or 225 hours per year, that it’s just average. Drivers in many cities have it much worse. Our research team used data from the 2021 census to identify the top 10 US cities with the worst commutes.
Drivers in these US cities have the worst daily commutes
Driving to and from work is no fun anywhere, yet there are some areas of the country where conditions can seem tailor-made for a nightmare traffic jam. We use a series of data points to create a “Travel Difficulty Score” that reflects the overall difficulty of a trip in each city on a 100-point scale.
Hopefully drivers in the next 10 cities have plenty of music or podcasts they enjoy listening to, because they’ll need something to fill some of the worst commute times in the country.
1. New York City, New York
Trip Difficulty Score: 95.7
Drivers in and around the Big Apple probably won’t be surprised that the New York City metropolitan area ranks at the top of this list. In 33.7 minutes each way, drivers in and around the five boroughs face the longest average commute in the country. The New York City metropolitan area also claims the most commuters traveling more than an hour each way at 22.7%.
Within Manhattan, First Avenue North is one of the main pain points for drivers. Within the metropolitan area, however, the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway section of I-278 is perhaps the biggest source of frustration for commuters in and around New York City.
2. San Francisco, Calif.
Trip Difficulty Score: 87.9
San Francisco and the Bay Area overall rank second on the list of worst commutes in the US. A big reason for this is simple geography. Much of the city’s commuter population lives on the eastern side of San Francisco Bay, with only three bridges available to cross, creating frequent bottlenecks.
On average, Bay Area drivers spend 35.2 minutes round-trip commutes, with 19.4% traveling more than an hour to and from work.
While slow traffic is present throughout San Francisco, the city’s bridges are some of the biggest bottlenecks in the area. On a daily basis, the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge in particular can be home to traffic jams that make the roads look more like parking lots than main thoroughfares.
Trip Difficulty Score: 87.7
The nation’s capital is known for many things, including its world-class museums, stunning architecture, and distinctive local culture. But anyone who has tried driving in or around Washington, DC also knows the city for its distinctly tedious traffic. A sizeable portion of the city’s workers commute in and out of the city each day from suburban Maryland and Virginia, creating rush-hour congestion that can extend more than 50 miles outside the city limits.
On average, drivers in the DC metro area spend 35.6 minutes in each direction to and from work, with 18.3% commuting more than an hour in each direction.
Drivers can find themselves stopped at almost any point along I-95 within a few dozen miles of DC. However, I-395 between George Washington Parkway and Washington Boulevard is home to some of the worst traffic not only in the city, but in the entire country.
4. Riverside, Calif.
Trip Difficulty Score: 84.4
It may seem strange to some that Riverside appears before Los Angeles on the list of cities with the worst commutes in the US. traffic hazards here okay. While not as populated as its more famous neighbor to the west, nearly 85% of the city’s working population reported commuting to and from work by car only, resulting in some of the worst rush hours in the country.
Riverside area drivers ride 33.9 minutes in each direction when traveling, with 18.4% of them traveling for more than an hour.
Drivers can find themselves stopped at any point along the Riverside Freeway, as it serves as one of the main inbound and outbound arteries. However, Riverside’s worst traffic typically occurs where that freeway intersects with I-15.
5. Boston, Mass.
Trip Difficulty Score: 79.4
Drivers in Boston have it tough, to say the least. According to some, “rush hour” can start as early as 6 a.m. and run until 7 p.m. most days of the week. And it’s not just rush hour that drivers have to fear. The Boston Celtics, New England Patriots, Boston Red Socks, and Boston Bruins may have won enough to make “Titletown” a fitting nickname for the city, but the fans swarming into stadiums can make traffic difficult. unbearable at almost any time.
Bostonians spend an average of 32.6 minutes on each leg of their trip, with 15.6% of them taking more than an hour per trip.
As those familiar with Beantown can tell you, traffic on the Southeast Freeway portion of I-93 regularly comes to a standstill. But drivers heading north of the city to Cambridge and Somerville via Route 28 consistently face the worst congestion in Boston.
6. Atlanta, Georgia
Trip Difficulty Score: 78.0
Thanks to a healthy job market and a booming economy, Atlanta is now one of the fastest growing cities in the country, home to more than six million people. Unfortunately, that means travel times are growing just as fast. Nearly 75% of Atlantans report that they commute to work only in their car, making the roads crowded during rush hour and on weekends.
The average commute in and around Atlanta is 32.5 minutes Every way. Around 14.2% of workers spend more than an hour going to and from their jobs.
A major junction of I-85 and I-285, Spaghetti Junction may have a funny name, but it’s often anything but to the people trying to navigate it. Heavy-duty truckers entering Atlanta and the surrounding areas can easily clog the roads at any time of the day. However, this bottleneck is no match for the Downtown Connector, a 7.5-mile stretch at the convergence of I-85 and I-75 that is often considered one of the worst bottlenecks in the US. .
7. Chicago, Ill.
Commute Difficulty Score: 77.9
On many days, the breeze may be the only thing moving in the Windy City during rush hour. Chicago is home to some of the country’s most magnificent museums, one of its most exciting culinary scenes and, sadly, some of its worst traffic. The grid pattern that the city is built on helps manage some of the flow in the urban core.
However, workers in Chicago’s many suburbs can find themselves in a difficult situation on their way to and from work. The average traveler in the Chicago area takes 32.4 minutes going to and from work, with 14.4% of them traveling more than an hour in each direction.
The intersection of I-94 and I-90 is frequently ranked among the most congested highways in the country, as Chicago also serves as a transportation hub for the region. Other major interchanges, such as where I-94 and I-80 meet, are also frequently clogged.
8. Los Angeles, California
Trip Difficulty Score: 76.5
The only surprise with Los Angeles’ appearance on this list is that it didn’t get higher than eighth. Traffic jams are a fixture of portrayals of Los Angeles in movies and TV shows, but it ranks third among California metropolitan areas in terms of how difficult the average commute is. Still, blocked traffic in and around Los Angeles isn’t just Hollywood fiction.
The sprawling urban sprawl and the country’s second-largest population mean lots of cars on the road most of the day. The average traveler in and around Los Angeles spends 31.7 minutes in every way to get to and from work, with 14.4% spending more than an hour.
While the city as a whole may not top the list for worst commutes, the section of I-5 between Euclid Avenue and the 605 Freeway was ranked by the INRIX Global Traffic Scorecard as the most congested thoroughfare in the US. USA in 2021.
Trip Difficulty Score: 75.6
Baltimore is the fourth city on the I-95 corridor to make the list of worst commutes in the US. Although the city’s urban population has declined in recent years, the population in surrounding areas of Baltimore counties Howard and Anne Arundel has grown. . That means there are more cars on the road trying to get in and out of town getting between you and one of those legendary crab cakes.
Workers in the Baltimore area spend an average of 31.7 minutes in every way to get to and from their jobs. About 13.3% of them spend more than an hour on each leg of their trip.
Baltimore drivers tend to face the worst traffic along I-695, also known as the Baltimore Beltway. Unsurprisingly, congestion is also common along I-95, both north and south of the city.
10. Seattle, Wash.
Trip Difficulty Score: 74.7
Rounding out the top 10 list of worst commutes in the US is the Seattle area. Traffic problems in and around the city can be attributed, in part, to how it developed. The city of Seattle was formed by uniting independent land claims and, later, a series of annexations. As a result, the city’s road system could be loosely described as a disjointed grid, with many one-way streets and hills that can make navigation challenging even for longtime residents.
The average commute for workers in the Seattle area is 31.6 minutes Every way. Almost 12.5% of them travel more than an hour in each direction.
I-5 rears its ugly head again as a major congestion point, this time as it passes through downtown Seattle. The worst traffic in the city, though, is on Denny Way between Fairview Avenue and First Avenue, but at least drivers at that stop have the Space Needle to gawk at.
How We Determine Our Rankings
Our research team ranked cities based on our custom Commute Hardship Score metric. This proprietary metric takes into account data from the 2021 US Census 1-year ACS estimates, including the average commute time to work and the proportion of commuters who travel more than 60 minutes in each city.
To more accurately reflect the data points in context with the ensemble means, we normalized the numbers to a standardized range. We then combined these numbers into an equation, weighting each factor based on its impact on travelers, resulting in a rating based on a 100-point scale.