The 10 U.S. Cities With the Worst (and Best) Commutes

Feel like life is grinding to a halt? Time to put in for a transfer.

byMax Goldberg|
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The commute. We all do it. And since we all do it at roughly the same time, we all contribute to the dreaded “T” word.

Granted, volume is just one contributor to soul-crushing traffic. Poor road surfaces, inadequate public transportation, lack of major arterials and plain old driver incompetence can slow you down. The quant jocks at Texas A&M University have delved into the dirty data, and emerged with… a lot more data. For this list, we limited our gaze to cities with metro populations greater than 1 million.

The immediate takeaway? We feel for you, D.C.

1. Washington

Tim Sloan/AFP/Getty Images

Metro Pop.: 5.9 million

Avg. Yearly Delay per Auto Commuter:  82 hours

D.C. has always been known for terrible traffic, but Interstate 495, aka The Beltway, is especially, indescribably bad. With continuous construction and numerous bottlenecks, drivers find themselves staring at brake lights most of the commute.

2. Los Angeles, Calif.

Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty Images

Metro Pop.: 12.8 million

Avg. Yearly Delay per Auto Commuter: 80 hours

L.A., the land of fortune, fame and frayed nerves. Freeways like the 405 haunt the dreams of many Angelenos. Riddled with traffic, accidents, chases and, of course, drama, the roads of Los Angeles cause the average commuter to waste $1,711 in gas each year, according to the A&M study.

3. San Francisco, Calif.

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Metro Pop.: 7.4 million

Avg. Yearly Delay per Auto Commuter: 78 hours

Stop and go traffic, hills, high gas prices. A silver lining? Bay Area residents lead the nation in hybrid and EV ownership. So, really silent traffic jams, in other words…

4. New York, N.Y.

Michael Nagle/Getty Images

Metro Pop.: 20.1 million

Avg. Yearly Delay per Auto Commuter: 74 hours

Although a large portion of NYC’s commuters utilize public transportation, traffic remains a huge issue around the city. With constant road repairs, closures, accidents and random acts of New York-ness, residents of the Five Boroughs find themselves crawling around their city a mind-numbing pace.

5. San Jose, Calif.

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Metro Pop.: 2.2 million

Avg. Yearly Delay per Auto Commuter: 67 hours

Filled to the brim with techies, San Jose has been growing at a breakneck pace for the past 15 years. Unfortunately, the freeway infrastructure has not. Though the San Jose metro area has far fewer residents than the first four cities on the list, it can roll with the big dogs where squandered drive time is concerned.


But for those residing in the following cities…pinch yourselves. With only around eight minutes of traffic a day, these five—again, with metro populations over 1 million people—have beaten back traffic with an arsenal of highways, public transportation and limited construction.

1. Richmond, Va.

Norm Shafer/ For The Washington Post via Getty Images

Metro Pop.: 1.2 million

Avg. Yearly Delay per Auto Commuter: 34 hours

With approximately 25 major roadways, this bustling city has plenty of options when it comes to avoiding gridlock.

2. Salt Lake City, Utah

Brian Bahr/Getty Images

Metro Pop.: 1.2 million

Avg. Yearly Delay per Auto Commuter: 37 hours

Thanks to a grid system and relatively wide streets, the citizens of Salt Lake have manageable commutes—once they enter the city limits. The journey to the city is not as easy for residents of Davis County, limited to only four major roads into the city, owing to the narrow pass between the Great Salt Lake and Wasatch Mountains.

3. Milwaukee, W.I.

Bill O'Leary/The Washington Post via Getty Images

Metro Pop.: 2 million

Avg. Yearly Delay per Auto Commuter: 38 hours

With the Milwaukee County Transit System buses and decent roadway infrastructure, Wisconsin’s largest city keeps things moving fairly fluidly. Still, the city is planning on improving traffic flow further by introducing a modern streetcar system.

4. Jacksonville, Fla.

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Metro Pop.: 1.4 million

Avg. Yearly Delay per Auto Commuter: 38 hours

Though relatively weak on public transportation, Jacksonville has plenty of roadways to make up for it. Five major highways, three interstates and seven bridges crossing the St. Johns River give residents plenty of ways to maneuver around this northern Florida city.

5. Cleveland, Ohio

Metro Pop.: 2.1 million

Avg. Yearly Delay per Auto Commuter: 38 hours

Thanks to a goodly number of highway options—I-71, I-77, I-90 and I-490—the good citizens of the greater Cleveland area are able to file into the city without much fuss. Traffic has been further reduced thanks to Cleveland’s public transportation system, named in 2007 by the American Public Transportation Association the best system in North America. Plus, Cleveland rocks.