Traffic Pain: 10 Cities with the Worst Commutes

by Kathy Kristof for CBS MoneyWatch.com

What does sitting in traffic cost you? About $808 on average, according to the latest Urban Mobility Report, conducted by the Texas Transportation Institute. But the cost is dramatically higher if you live in Chicago, where the cost per commuter hit a whopping $1,738.

In fact, commuters in large urban areas spend roughly 40% more on average, wasting some $1,166 per year twiddling their thumbs in traffic.

Where do these cost estimates come from? TTI calculates the cost of traffic by analyzing vast data sets to determine how many hours the average commuter spends sitting in traffic jams and then breaks the data down based on how many of these commuters are driving cars versus trucks. They then add up the cost of wasted gasoline and time. But the cost of time is considerably higher for truckers - $106 per hour - than for drivers - $16.

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That's the reason that Chicago beat out Washington, D.C. as the most costly city for commuters. Commuters in the District waste an equal number of hours - 70 per year - and even more gasoline - 57 gallons versus 52 gallons in Chicago. But fewer of the commuters in D.C. are driving trucks.

It's also worth mentioning that New York doesn't even make the top 10. Why? The study isn't looking at just the core business districts - like Manhattan or downtown Los Angeles, said Tim Lomax, the study's research engineer, in a telephone interview. It's measuring traffic in much wider geographic areas.

"Manhattan would be off the charts," he adds. "But when you spread it out over the much larger urban area that we're tracking, the average goes way down."

Where does traffic cost the most, according to the study?

  • 1. Chicago: $1,738 (70 hours/52 gallons)
  • 2. Washington, D.C. : $1,555 (70 hours/57 gallons)
  • 3. Los Angeles/Long Beach: $1,464 (63 hours/50 gallons)
  • 4. Houston: $1,322 (58 hours/52 gallons)
  • 5. Baltimore: $1,218 (50 hours/43 gallons)
  • 6. San Francisco: $1,112 (49 hours/39 gallons)
  • 7. Boston: $1,112 (48 hours/36 gallons
  • 8. Dallas/Ft. Worth: $1,077 (48 hours/38 gallons)
  • 9. Denver: $1,057 (47 hours/38 gallons)
  • 10. Seattle: $1,056 (44 hours/35 gallons)

The study looked at 101 cities. Want to see the data about your city, including whether it's getting more or less congested? You can go to TTI map and click on your area.

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©2011 CBS Interactive Inc., a CBS Company. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

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