Which cities around the world have the worst traffic?
The study we drew from evaluated drivers in 78 key locations, measuring how often they had to “start-stop” in a year.
Cover: Xinhua/ eyevine/Redux
Holiday traffic is a nightmare for most people around the world. But in some cities more than others, bumper-to-bumper traffic is just part of everyday life, reducing workplace productivity and time spent with families. Since everyone seems to experience transportation frustration, we were curious as to which cities had the most legitimate complaints about traffic.
Below you'll find a list of the ten cities with the worst traffic. The study we drew from evaluated drivers in 78 key locations, measuring how often they had to “start-stop” in a year. Not only is start-stop driving damaging to the engine, it’s also a compelling measurement to compare cities, as it reduces outside variables and focuses on how often drivers encounter situations that make them stop, wait, and start again (i.e. traffic). Additional traffic misery was culled from various sources (listed on the bottom.) Here are the ten worst cities to drive a car. Happy holidays, and godspeed.
Milan has one of the highest rates of car ownership in Europe. While most people in Milan use public transportation, 30% of all trips in the Italian city are by car. But the city is trying out a few creative ways to get people to leave their cars at home. Milan has teamed up with insurer Unipol to offer local drivers public transportation vouchers if they leave their car parked in their driveway between 7:30 AM and 7:30 PM. Not only will this save drivers money, it also might buy them some extra time: drivers with a 30-minute commute lose an extra 87 hours each year to traffic delays.
Traffic in Argentina’s capital isn’t great, but the city’s recent efforts to reduce the numbers of cars on the road were awarded the 2014 Sustainable Transport Award. In recent years, Buenos Aires has developed a bus-based rapid transit system, expanded the metro network, widened pedestrian walkways, and developed pro-biking initiatives, like dedicated paths and bike share programs. While travel times for cars are down by 20%, jams still force drivers to stop and start 23,760 times each year.
Bangkok police recently admitted that the city’s roads are inundated with five times as many cars as their capacity, forcing drivers to idle more than 36% of their travel time. Not only is it time-consuming to drive on Thai streets, it’s also dangerous: the World Health Organization reports that the country has the second highest fatal car accident rate in the world, with about 39 people dying in crashes each day. Bangkok police have developed a five-step plan to ease traffic in the capital by 60% in the next three months. The strategy includes traffic rearrangement on 11 routes, increasing traffic patrol at expressways, and towing illegally parked cars.
The Russian capital consistently ranks among the world’s worst for traffic, where drivers with a 30-minute commute sit and wait for a whopping 109 extra hours annually on highways with up to 12 lanes. In this study, it tied with Rome, experiencing a very similar number of stop-starts every year. The problem started in 1991, after the fall of the Soviet Union, when Russians started buying cars at a faster rate than Moscow’s infrastructure could develop. The number of cars in the city has continued to grow by 8-10% annually. One city official says that the roads are only equipped to handle up to 30% of the city population driving daily. Fortunately, new efforts to curb traffic may help ease congestion on the road. The city’s recently launched bike share program and dedicated bike lanes have spurred an increase in cycling as an alternative to private vehicles. The city is also building new roads, including a 530-kilometer ring in the heart of Moscow.
Italy rivals America for its love of cars—in Rome, there are 970 vehicles for every 1,000 adults, resulting in very clogged streets. Congestion is a problem that starts as far back as Julius Caesar’s reign when chariots would send a runner up a narrow street to stop traffic while the vehicle went through. Today, Romans today face an average of 24 extra minutes on a 30-minute commute.
Surabaya, located on the island of Java, Indonesia, suffers from stifling traffic. With a population of 2.4 million people, Surabaya is the second largest city in the country and is afflicted by many of the same gridlock woes as the capital, including limited public transportation, rising private vehicle ownership stemming from low-interest rates on car loans, and flooding. On average, more than 23% of travel time in Surabaya is spent idling.
Waiting is the norm in St. Petersburg, where drivers with a 30-minute commute are delayed by more than 100 extra hours each year. The country’s traffic situation is frustrating at best and deadly at worst, evident in the 35,000 annual traffic deaths and countless dash cam videos of crazy traffic accidents posted on YouTube. To help combat gridlock, St. Petersburg has deployed a fleet of water taxis, which have grown popular with locals and tourists alike. Riders enjoy 30-45 minute commutes between St. Petersburg islands (less than half the duration of travel on traffic-riddled streets)—if they can snag a space on one of the 12-seat or 36-seat boats.
If you have (what should be) a 30-minute commute in Mexico City, chances are good that it’ll take you about an hour. While the city does have an extensive public transportation network, there are still more than 20 million vehicular trips each day, largely from privately owned cars. To help curb the extreme levels of congestion (as well as air pollution), Mexico City’s “Hoy No Circula” program restricts diesel- and gasoline-powered vehicles from the roads from 5 am to 10 pm on certain days of the week, depending on the last digit of their license plates.
Hot on the wheels of the number one worst traffic city is Istanbul, where the average driver with a 30-minute commute sits in traffic for 110 extra hours each year. Turkey is trying to build a harbor for roll-on, roll-off ships, which will remove up to 3,500 trucks from Istanbul’s streets each day as they travel from Asia to Europe over water instead of land. However, private cars are largely responsible for clogging Istanbul. City authorities say that private vehicles carrying just one person make up 80% of all traffic volume in Istanbul.
A variety of factors compound the traffic problem in Indonesia’s sprawling capital, resulting in the worst traffic jams in the world. The biggest problem is a lack of mass rapid transit system, which leaves workers stranded for hours during their commute. The city has also seen a dramatic increase in cars on the road, rising to 17.5 million in 2014 from 16 million the year before. Then, there’s the flooding—it’s not uncommon for roads and highways to be submerged under feet of water during the rainy season, reducing drivability on key highways. The government estimates annual losses of $5 billion due to congestion.