TRAFFIC SCORECARD
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Key Findings

Introduction

Since its groundbreaking first publication in 2007, the INRIX National Traffic Scorecard Annual Report has analyzed and compared the status of traffic congestion in countries and major metropolitan areas worldwide. Used by regional departments of transportation, academics, the media, city planners, economists and everyday drivers, the INRIX Scorecard has become the trusted benchmark for understanding congestion and the impact of traffic in our daily lives.

After 7 years of modest congestion through the Great Recession, this 2013 Annual Report documents that we're back on the road to gridlock. The data tells us congestion is on its way back, even with only modest urban area economic and job growth. And traffic is particularly worst in areas and specific locations where congestion levels remained elevated even at the deepest depths of the recession. Simply put, it appears that congestion in 2013 acted like a magnet ‐ where it existed, it had a tendency to attract disproportionately more of it. This applies to both regions and specific roadways, where sharp increases in congestion were recorded even though we're only just now emerging from the Great Recession.

What remains uncertain is how we avoid traffic congestion shifting from an indicator of economic health to an inhibitor to economic growth. Of the cities analyzed in the report, those with the biggest increases in employment and GDP generally experienced the biggest increases in traffic congestion. As we reach the 5 year mark since the start of the global recession, people increasingly are moving to where the jobs are. With just over half of the world's population lives in urban centers today, the UN predicts that 7 of every 10 people will be living in an urban center by 2050. Recently, Executive Chairman of the Ford Motor Company, Bill Ford Jr. said the number of vehicles on the word's roads will grow from 1 billion today to 4 billion in the same period of time. With traffic congestion increasing at 3x the rate of employment, 10‐day long traffic jams like we've seen in China and the 2-3 hour daily commutes that are part of daily life for people in Sao Paolo Brazil today could become the reality for drivers in Europe and North America in the not so distant future.

In summary, the data paints a picture of a global economy turning the corner back toward prosperity where increases in traffic congestion not only provide a barometer of our economic recovery but drains the economy costing individuals and businesses money that could be better spent.

Key Scorecard Findings Globally:

  • Traffic is back on the rise in 2013, even in countries showing continued declines. Traffic congestion was up in six of the 15 countries analyzed: the U.S., UK, Ireland, Switzerland, Luxembourg and Italy compared to only one country in 2012 (Luxembourg). Traffic congestion was up in 105 of the 194 cities analyzed.
  • Traffic congestion in Europe rose for the first time in 2 years. In the second, third and fourth quarters of 2013 traffic congestion rose 6 percent, a potential signal that Europe's economy is on the rebound. In Europe, traffic congestion was up in 5 of the 13 countries analyzed and 43 of the 94 cities last year compared to only one country (Luxembourg) and 3 cities (Geneva, Luxembourg and Caligari) in 2012.
  • As GDP goes up, MPH goes down. Nations and metropolitan areas experiencing economic growth and employment generally recorded increases in traffic congestion. Conversely, economies struggling with high unemployment and low or negative growth in 2013 typically recorded lower traffic congestion than in 2012. Aside from Italy, all of the countries with increases in traffic congestion also had growing economies in 2013 (The U.S., Swiss and British economies all grew by 1.9%, Ireland by 1.3%). Conversely, Spain's economy contracted by 1.2% and Portugal recorded record unemployment last year resulting in some of the biggest drops in traffic congestion among the countries analyzed (down 30% and 45% respectively).

    Like the improving economic outlook in the U.S., the general trend is the countries showing increased congestion have a positive economic outlook, while those economies still struggling are still experiencing declines. Even though many still had drops, the rate of decline was down 18% compared to 2012.

North America

  • Despite the economic ups and downs of 2012, INRIX reports that congestion back on the rise in 2013 ‐ congestion was up for 7 consecutive months from January through July 2013 indicating after 2012's rollercoaster, a slowly improving economy.
  • Traffic congestion was up 6 percent in 2013 with the average driver in America's Ten Worst Traffic Cities wasting on average 47 hours in traffic (up from 42 hours in 2012) ‐ that's more than a week's vacation time.
  • In 2013, 61 U.S. metro areas saw increased traffic congestion, a big shift from 2012 where only six cities experienced increases.
  • The Top 10 Worst Cities for Traffic in America in 2013, along with total annual hours wasted in traffic, were:
    1. Los Angeles (64 hours, up 5 hours from 2012)
    2. Honolulu (60 hours, up 10 hours from 2012)
    3. San Francisco (56 hours, up 7 hours from 2012)
    4. Austin (41 hours, up 3 hours from 2012)
    5. New York (53 hours, up 3 hours from 2012)
    6. Bridgeport (42 hours, up 3 hours from 2012)
    7. San Jose (35 hours, up 4 hours from 2012)
    8. Seattle (37 hours, up 2 hours from 2012)
    9. Boston (38 hours, up 7 hours from 2012)
    10. Washington, D.C. (40 hours, down 1 hour from 2012)
  • Among the 2013 Top 10 Worst Cities for Traffic in America, nine of them have experienced increases in 2013 compared to last year. The largest increase was in Boston (+22%), likely a result of the Boston metropolitan area experiencing employment growth in line with the national average just over 2 percent (2.1%) The only city showing a decline was Washington D.C. which likely was attributed to cuts in government spending and hiring (‐.1%) from sequester.

    1. Los Angeles (+8.5%)3. San Francisco (+13%)
    2. Honolulu (+18%)4. Austin (+9%)
    5. New York (+5%)8. Seattle (7%)
    6. Bridgeport (+9%)9. Boston (+22%)
    7. San Jose (+10%)10. Washington, D.C. (‐1%)
  • Cities at or above the national averages in employment growth (nearly 2.2%) and GDP (1.7%) like Austin (2.8%, 3.4%), San Jose (3.4%, 3.33%),Seattle (2.6%, 2.5%) and Boston (2.1%, 1.7%) experienced some of the biggest increases in traffic congestion. Additionally, these cities also experienced some of the largest increases in population in the last year as people moved to these urban centers in search of work ‐ Austin 6.6%, San Jose (3.9%), Seattle (4.25%), Boston (3%)
  • Cities that experienced some of the biggest drops in traffic congestion also were consistent to those where employment and economic growth were lagging compared to the national average including Youngstown (‐.1%, ‐.9%), Albuquerque (.9%, .8%), Scranton (‐.8%, .3%), Toledo (‐.2%, .5%), Allentown (1.1%, 1.7%) and Washington D.C. (‐.1% .6%). Cities experiencing declines in traffic congestion also include those with less diverse economies dependent on weaker manufacturing and government sectors including Youngstown, Albuquerque, Scranton, Sacramento, Toledo, Akron, Allentown and Washington D.C.
  • At the same time, total employment in the U.S. increased by nearly 2.2 million jobs in 2013 consistent with 2012 (nearly 2.3 million) but still below 2007 levels before the recession. When employment returns to 2007 levels, 2 MILLION more daily commute trips than current levels will need to be accommodated, further stressing America's urban highway network.
  • Traffic congestion was up every month of the year except for August (‐2.7%). The U.S. created a modest 169,000 jobs in August compounded by an additional 312,000 people dropping out of the labor force.
  • Los Angeles retained its position as America's worst traffic city with drivers surpassing 60 hours wasted annually in gridlock. This increase is largely attributed to the fact that Los Angeles County experienced the fastest year-over-year growth in employment since the recession began in 2007. The Los Angeles area's freeway system is more congested than that of any other city in the United States, U.K., France, Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands, by all measures.
  • Not all congestion is created equal. In 2013, the Top 10 worst travel corridors in the U.S. cost their drivers 5 days a year on average in gridlock ‐ almost 3 times the national average.
  • Analysis of the day and hour for traffic showed Tuesday's from 8:00‐9:00 AM to be the busiest morning commute, and Friday between 5:00‐6:00 PM to be the busiest evening commute hour, where the average trip took 12 percent longer due to traffic.
  • In 2013, the nation's INRIX Index was 7.0. This means that during the morning and evening rush hour peak periods, travel times were on average 7 percent longer in the U.S. due to traffic congestion. This number represents a 6.1 percent increase from 2012's 6.6, still 40 percent lower than 2007's record for delays (13.3).

Europe

  • Traffic congestion in Europe is back on the rise for the first time in two years. In the second, third and fourth quarters of 2013 traffic congestion rose 6 percent aligned with an improving economic picture in Europe toward the end of the year. Traffic congestion was down over 20 percent in Q1 2013 before bouncing back. While traffic congestion was still down nearly 2.5 percent in Europe, these declines were much less than in previous years 2012 (‐19%) and 2011 (‐8%).
  • In Europe, traffic congestion was up in 5 of the 13 countries analyzed and 43 of the 94 cities in 2013 compared to only one country (Luxembourg) and 3 cities (Geneva, Luxembourg and Caligari) in 2012.
  • Of the European countries analyzed, 5 had increases (Italy +15%, Switzerland +11%, Luxembourg +11%, Ireland +9%, U.K. +1%) and 8 had declines (Belgium ‐1%, Germany ‐1.6%, France ‐6%, Austria ‐9%, Netherlands ‐14%, Spain ‐30%, Hungary ‐38%) and Portugal ‐45%.
  • Those nations struggling with high unemployment and low or negative growth in 2013 typically recorded lower traffic congestion than in 2012. Spain and Portugal are both examples of this trend: in 2013 Spain's economy contracted by 1.2% and Portugal recorded record unemployment.
  • The data shows a marked difference from 2012 where all of the European countries saw decreases in congestion. In 2013, five nations recorded increases in congestion according to the INRIX Index: the UK, Ireland, Switzerland, Luxembourg and Italy. The Swiss2 and British economies both grew by 1.9% in 2013.
  • The below table of Europe's Worst Countries for Traffic Congestion in 2013 based on the amount of hours spent in gridlock illustrate a strong connection between traffic and the overall economy.
    2013 Rank 2012 Rank Country Hours Wasted in 2013 Change in hours wasted from 2012 to 2013 Average Unemployment Rate 2013 (%)
    1 1 Belgium 58 no change 8.40
    2 2 Netherlands 44 ‐7.00 6.70
    3 4 Germany 35 1 5.28
    4 3 France 35 ‐2 10.81
    5 6 Luxembourg 31 3 5.86
    6 5 United Kingdom 29 1 7.6
    7 10 Italy 24 3 12.24
    8 9 Switzerland 25 3 3.13
    9 7 Austria 22 ‐3 4.83
    10 11 Ireland 20 1 13.12
    11 8 Spain 17 ‐8 26.38
    12 12 Hungary 9 ‐6 10.27
    13 13 Portugal 6 ‐5 16.49
  • Drivers in the U.K, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Belgium and The Netherlands wasted 54 hours on average annually on their countries' worst traffic corridors, 10 more hours on average than drivers on the worst roads in the U.S.
  • Based on the average annual hours wasted in traffic, the Top 25 Most Congested Cities in Europe in 2013 were:

    2013 Rank 2012 Rank Metropolitan Area Hours Wasted in 2013 Annual Change in Hours
    1 1 Bruxelles 83 No change
    2 3 London commuter zone 81 9
    3 2 Antwerp 77 1
    4 4 Rotterdam 63 ‐8
    5 5 Stuttgart 60 ‐5
    6 9 Köln 56 ‐2
    7 13 Milano 55 5
    8 6 Paris 55 ‐8
    9 10 Gent 54 1
    10 15 Karlsruhe 52 4
    11 8 Amsterdam 50 ‐9
    12 11 s Gravenhage 49 ‐3
    13 14 Dusseldorf 48 &dash2
    14 12 Hamburg 48 &dash3
    15 7 Utrecht 48 &dash12
    16 19 Gr. Manchester 45 1
    17 18 Munchen 44 No change
    18 17 Lyon 43 &dash3
    19 22 Grenoble 41 1
    20 20 Charleroi 41 ‐1
    21 16 Bordeaux 41 ‐5
    22 23 Ruhrgebiet 40 No change
    23 21 Toulouse 39 ‐1
    24 24 Merseyside 38 1
    25 25 S. Nottinghamshire 38 2

Conclusions

  • Drawing on seven years of trend data, the 2013 Annual Report shows that traffic congestion is bouncing back in many countries and cities for the first time in two years. Economic growth and increased employment generally improved in 2013 and the data showed that traffic congestion grew at a 3x the rate of GDP or employment. How fast this growth continues, in terms of economic health and traffic congestion, just may be dependent on still shaky economic ground in Europe.
  • Looking forward, the Scorecard leads to several conclusions and identifies issues to watch: We are (back) on the road to gridlock...but not for everyone, everywhere. While the unemployment rate in the U.S. is down to pre-recession levels, the country is still down 2 million of the 9 million jobs lost during the recession. When you consider only 63% of Americans now participate in the labor force ‐‐ the lowest rate since 1978 ‐‐ 2 millions more daily work trips will need to be accommodated as the economy improves.
  • Where we go from here in Europe is less certain. If the traffic data is any indication, the economies in the U.K., Germany, Luxembourg and Switzerland are starting to see the light at the end of the European debt crisis tunnel. Countries like Ireland who made the tough decisions re: getting their economies back on track at the start of the recession are starting to see results. What certain is that high unemployment combined with ongoing debt issues last year likely fueled continued declines in traffic congestion in Spain, Hungary and Portugal as businesses and consumers took a "wait and see" approach
  • While bad news for drivers, the gains we've seen in the U.S. and parts of Europe in 2013 are cause for optimism. Government leaders must find viable long term solutions if we’re to drive our economy forward.
  • Congestion attracts... more congestion. The data in 2013 illustrate clearly that the corridors where traffic typically breaks down are the first to feel the increases in demand that comes with a growing economy. We fully expect—should growth continue—to see congested corridors get longer in length, have delays more hours of each day, and see slower traffic while congested. This triple whammy of longer (length), longer (time), and slower is likely to be the primary contributor to congestion growth in 2014, as it appears to have been in 2013.
  • Given that governments around the world are still wrestling with huge deficits and times of austerity, our ability to gather the funds and continued support needed to address persistent congestion is harder than ever. Whatever the solutions may be ‐ extra capacity through additional lane miles, coordinated signal timing of traffic lights, toll express lanes, more public transit, we will not unclog key roads by adding lane miles in the metro areas far outside our urban areas or by improving pavement quality. The time for shovel-ready projects and politically popular but ineffective schemes like community bicycles will not break the march of gridlock. Current efforts are too few and far between to move the needle nationally. People can debate each corridor on a case-by-case basis to determine whether fixing it is a national issue, but certainly giving regions the tools to fix corridors on their own if federal resources and programs cannot is imperative.
  • Future roads will not be built with concrete as much as they'll be built with software. It’s time to apply what we've learned from building the Internet highway to build a smarter transportation networks. Through breakthroughs in crowd-sourcing, connectivity and Big Data, technology is rapidly transforming a world we once measured in miles to one we can measure in minutes. According to ABI research, 80 percent of cars on the road in the U.S. and Western Europe will be connected and a source of real‐time data by 2017. For the remaining 20 percent, the continued explosion of connected devices in the form of the smartphones and tablets we carry with us everywhere we go will fill the gap. As a result, the coverage and quality of real-time traffic information is growing at a rapid pace. Since 2007, the largest ongoing test of crowd-sourced traffic information in the world by the 16 state, I‐95 Corridor Coalition in the U.S. found INRIX real‐time traffic information accurate within 3 mph of actual traffic speeds under nearly all conditions. With this new ability to gain reliable insight from every vehicle into the traffic speeds, travel times, and volumes on all roads, we have a unique opportunity to manage the flow of people and commerce as efficiently as we direct the flow of data over our IT networks today.
  • Evidence of the start of this transformation is everywhere. The U.K. Highways Agency is using INRIX traffic information in traffic operations for the country's entire limited access road network and with a program underway, INRIX and the Highways Agency are working together to update real‐time traffic information for every road in under 60 seconds in an effort to ensure traffic operations has a real‐time view of current conditions as possible. Additionally the New Jersey Department of Transportation has been using INRIX traffic information to fill gaps in their road network. Gaps that have helped them reduce user delay costs by up to $100K per incident. The best part of all is INRIX has been able to help groups like the I‐95 Coalition not only reap more benefit from this approach but do it at 25 percent less cost than installing traditional road sensors.
  • But the opportunity doesn't stop there. Automakers like BMW and Lexus are increasingly making traffic information standard in navigation systems on new cars providing better information to drivers in helping them navigate around delays. Audi is working with INRIX to provide real‐time parking information to drivers intended to help them reduce the time they spend in traffic looking for parking with the ability to navigate to the closest available parking to their destination. With 30 percent of all urban traffic considered to be drivers looking for parking, this type of service has potential to not only help Audi owners but benefit all drivers through reduced traffic congestion.
  • We're at the dawn of a new era in transportation. In the next few years, cars will be able to communicate real-time traffic information about their ABS, windshield wiper, temperature and traction control systems helping other drivers find the safest route as well as gain early warning to road conditions up ahead. For an agency like the Ohio Department of Transportation who has set a goal to better leverage technology to clear roads statewide within 3 hours of a major snowstorm, access to this information will prove invaluable to their efforts.
  • In sum, technology is opening new avenues to tackle one of society's most intractable problems ‐ traffic congestion. The time is now further invest in these technologies and for the public and private sectors to connect the car with the road network with the shared goal of not only improving urban mobility but ensuring future economic prosperity and sustainability worldwide.