The Worst Cities For Driving and Traffic in America

William B. Plowman/Getty Images News
William B. Plowman/Getty Images News

As someone who recently moved to the Boston area, having access to a proper public transportation system has been wonderful because trying to drive in this city is terrible. It’s comforting to know that I’m not the only one who thinks so though. In fact, there’s now proof that driving in Boston is terrible because NerdWallet just declared Boston the single worst driving city in the United States.

Looking at NerdWallet’s methodology, the claim looks like it will hold up well to scrutiny as well. Delays, congestion during peak hours, weather, parking, insurance, gas, and accident rates were all factored into the study, and together, those factors paint a pretty well-rounded picture of what makes a city a terrible place to drive. After all of the numbers were tallied, it wasn’t Los Angeles or New York City that came out on top. Instead, it was Boston.

According to the study, drivers in Boston are the most likely to get into an accident. Roads are also regularly congested, and drivers face an average of 53 hours of traffic delays every year, 60% worse than the national average of 33 hours. Drivers who eventually make it to their final destinations will also struggle to find parking, as there are only 1.36 parking lots and garages for every 1,000 commuter cars. To top it all off, Boston experiences 10 more days of precipitation than the national average, which only exacerbates traffic problems.

While Boston is the worst overall, it isn’t the worst at everything. Washington, D.C. takes the prize for longest delays at 67 hours, more than double the national average. Denver has the worst congestion, while Seattle has the most days with precipitation. Detroit manages to win both for highest insurance rates and worst parking though. If you’re in Honolulu, you’ll pay the most for a gallon of gas.

After Boston, Washington, D.C. was the second worst city overall. Los Angeles was third, while Miami was fourth, and Chicago was fifth. Surprisingly, New York City only barely made the list, and Atlanta didn’t even make the top 10.

Darren McCollester/Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Darren McCollester/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Unlike Atlanta, however, cities like Boston and New York City offer quality public transportation systems that serve as alternatives to driving. Boston could potentially do something about its accident rate, but improving delays and congestion is a matter of getting more people to use the public transportation system that’s already in place. Yes, parking is expensive and hard to find, but the money the city would have to spend to improve the parking situation would help far more people if it were used to improve the buses and trains.

Americans love their cars, and in rural and suburban areas, driving makes sense. In cities, however, the population density is so high that driving becomes incredibly impractical. Expanding public transportation, on the other hand, is a great way to reduce congestion, delays, and accidents. A single bus takes probably 30 or 40 cars off the road, and a train reduces congestion even more. Even better, trains don’t get stuck in traffic with other cars like buses sometimes can.

I know drivers love their cars, but I can’t imagine anyone loves driving in rush hour traffic. Commuting in stop-and-go traffic is miserable compared to sitting on a train. Even better, though, if you aren’t driving to work every day, there’s no need to own a practical car. A well-optioned Toyota Camry is a great option for spending an hour driving five miles every day, but it’s not exactly fun to take to the mountains.

Instead of spending $30,000 on a Camry to commute in miserable traffic, would it not be better to take the train into work every day and buy a sports car for the weekends? $30,000 easily puts you into a new Scion FR-S, and if you’re willing to go used, it’s Chevrolet Corvette, Dodge Viper, or Porsche Cayman money. You could even buy a classic car with the kind of style a modern car just can’t touch. No matter what you buy, it will probably be a lot more enjoyable to own than a sensible commuter car.

Boston may be the worst city in the United States for drivers, but considering that you don’t really need to drive here, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. I love cars, and I love driving, but at a certain point, I question the desire to drive unnecessarily. I’d much rather save my gas money and head on a scenic weekend trip outside of the city.

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