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For the Traffic of it All

Posted on November 13th, 2023

Dave!24/7 Wall Street has published a list of cities with the worst traffic in the USA.

As you may have guessed from reading this blog, this is a subject on which I have very strong feelings. So, naturally, I can't just let this list blow by without commenting. In order to get the ball rolling, I'll just publish my list and discuss entries on their list after. Because I have some serious disagreements. Their only metric is "lost time due to traffic delays" which is a worthy way of looking at it, but I'd argue that an overall statistic is too general to be useful in specific circumstances. If I'm sitting in traffic I'm not thinking "Thank heavens I'm not in Chicago where traffic is worse" because my driving experience in Chicago is specific, not general. Based on my experience, here's my Top 15 (they did 32 cities for some reason)

  1. Atlanta (24/7 Rank: 10)
    Here is a classic example of their list's "general timing" being bizarre to me. Because to find traffic worse than Atlanta on my list, I would have to go International. Atlanta is hands-down, without-a-doubt the worst traffic I have encountered in the USA. I remember very well approaching Atlanta from the East Coast only to run into traffic so bad that it took over an hour to get through what should have taken ten minutes. And within the city itself, driving anywhere means you are just fucked. It takes forever to get anywhere. Even if you circumnavigate the city center. From the airport? Fucked. Heading to Marietta? Fucked. There is no way to navigate anywhere near Atlanta without getting fucked.
  2. Los Angeles (24/7 Rank: 7)
    The fact that L.A. doesn't appear until the #7 slot makes me dubious about the list to begin with. I'm not questioning that the data is accurate, but I am questioning how it applies to actual people and their driving experience. As anybody who has ever driven in L.A. (or tried to get out of L.A.) will tell you, traffic is a nightmare without end. I have driven from LAX up to The Valley and honest-to-God felt as though I was caught in some kind of time warp where time slows to a crawl. I used to have to drive from Santa Monica down to Anaheim/Santa Ana and would end up screaming... not at anybody in particular, just out of general frustration. I may have taken my driving lessons in Central Washington, but I didn't really learn to drive until I was working in L.A. regularly in the 90's. Traffic has only gotten worse.
  3. New York (24/7 Rank: 3)
    Despite the fact that NYC is in the #3 spot, New York is actually not that terrible to get around in. So long as you are using public transport! But if you attempt to drive in any of the five boroughs, you're 100% fucked. I used to drive from whatever airport I arrived in to Manhattan because I often needed to go out of the city on my work trips. I gave up on my fourth trip. I take public transportation out of the city, then rent a car from there. It saves my sanity.
  4. Seattle (24/7 Rank: 10)
    Seattle is surrounded on three sides by water. So there is no "ring road" to get around it... and any attempt to get around it by driving around the East Side is an exercise in futility because it's equally bad over there. Couple that with the fact that the streets are always torn up somewhere or other, and the horrific traffic is multiplied to an insane degree. Of all the cities on this list, I drive in Seattle the most often. My breath is taken away every time, because it's just so horrifically bad. Everywhere.
  5. Chicago (24/7 Rank: 1)
    Maybe it's because most times I just take the el (elevated train) to get around and only really drive to get to the city from the airport when a car is required, but I don't get the #1 ranking. Even when I do drive within Chicago, it's always seems like normal big-city traffic and not some insurmountable beast. That being said... from the experience I have had driving, I get it. Nothing quite like hitting the same light three and four times to make your blood boil.
  6. Boston (24/7 Rank: 2)
    Boston is a very old city which is a massive mess to navigate. For years I would arrive at the airport and drive up to Maine because flying direct into Portland was too expensive, and each time I would be stuck in ungodly traffic even though I was nowhere near central Boston. And God help you if you actually do need to drive in Boston proper because the traffic is a never-ending source of angst. Whenever I would have to navigate the old street layouts and ridiculous routes needed (all while trying to avoid potholes) my anxiety would escalate. I was exhausted at the end of the trip even though it technically "wasn't that terrible." Even so, I don't get the #2 ranking here. If you're a smart driver that can handle it, Boston is far better than Seattle of L.A. to navigate.
  7. Miami (24/7 Rank: 5)
    This is one of those cities where your experience very much depends on where you're driving. If you're driving from South Beach to Little Havana, let's say... yeah. The number of cars on the road is absurd. And while that's true for the rest of the city as well, it's to varying degrees. When I was driving from Miami to Palmetto Bay every year in the 90's I didn't think it was all that bad. Maybe it's far worse now? But you could say that about everywhere.
  8. San Francisco (24/7 Rank: 6)
    I have driven in San Francisco the second most on this list after Seattle. Yes, the traffic is bad. Yes, navigating the city can be baffling. Yes, there is construction often. Yes, people can be jerks. But traffic-wise? It's busy, but not to the extent of most big cities. Maybe it just seems that way because it's fairly compact? Like Seattle, the city is surrounded by water on three sides, which makes it impossible to improve things much, but driving the Bay Area never caused me more anxiety than the cities above.
  9. Washington D.C. (24/7 Rank: 8)
    Yeah... it's pretty bad. But not as bad as it could be if you know the streets to avoid. Some of it is, of course, unavoidable, but I've been all over D.C. and just don't find it to be bad enough for the #8 ranking. Seattle, San Francisco, and Atlanta are exponentially worse in my experience. It's been six years since I've driven there, so maybe it's gotten a lot worse... but what cities haven't gotten much worse?
  10. Philadelphia (24/7 Rank: 4)
    Philly traffic got so frustrating to me that I ended up refusing to drive there, and stopped renting cars because my blood pressure would become so elevated that I considered it a health risk. So I totally understand it landing in the #4 spot. That being said... worse than Atlanta?!?? Are you kidding me? Philadelphia has serious problems when it comes to traffic, but it's an absolute cakewalk compared to Atlanta! For one thing, navigation doesn't seem to be as bad, which maybe makes the traffic not seem so bad to me. I don't know. But the fact I refuse to drive in the city and use taxis/public transport is still very telling.
  11. Houston (24/7 Rank: 11)
    Houston is problematic to me in so many ways... but the traffic doesn't even rank in the top five reasons I am not thrilled to have to go there. But it is still a very large problem. Most times when I am in Houston for work, I have to drive out to some location in the burbs, and getting in and out of the city makes that a problem because the roads are jammed at all the wrong times. Many times I will just circumnavigate the horrors of downtown to get from the airport to my destination, but then if you want to experience the many terrific restaurants in the city, you have a choice to make. Do I really want to have a Hillstone veggie burger that bad? Unfortunately, the answer is most often "yes," and the fact that the restaurant is not even in the worst traffic in Houston won't save you because it's still bad. And don't get me started on the parking. San Francisco is the absolute worst... don't ask my why Houston is nearly as bad. I honestly don't understand it. Maybe I hang out at all the wrong places?
  12. New Orleans (24/7 Rank: 9)
    Driving in New Orleans can absolutely test your patience. Especially if you're foolish enough to attempt to drive through the tourist-heavy regions like The French Quarter. My most hated drive, however, is the one to and from the airport. Not sure why they can't do something to improve this... probably a question of money... but I would have a much more favorable impression of the city if this route weren't so dang slow.
  13. Portland (24/7 Rank: 13)
    This is highly dependent on where you are driving. The outskirts of the city are usually not that bad, but anywhere else... especially from the airport... can be a serious challenge. Oddly enough, the city proper is hit-or-miss, and many times I've driven it weren't terrible at all. This is also time-dependent, I think. But, yeah, rush hour is a mess and there is some weirdness to navigate certain areas, so it's understandable how traffic can seriously put a damper on your transit times.
  14. San Diego (24/7 Rank: 18)
    It's not just San Diego proper... it's the entire region. To the South is a mess because there's border traffic. To the north is a mess because there's limited corridors and popular cities like La Jolla and Del Mar are there (not to mention Los Angeles!). Going East isn't quite as bad (I had work in Spring Valley that I'd drive to)... but the rest? Disastrous. And I don't truly understand why that is. Sure there's a lot of people and it's between to high-traffic destinations, but even in the city proper it can take a long time to really get anywhere. I've drive in San Diego more times than I can count and found traffic to be a problem most every time. Maybe it's just California?
  15. Austin (24/7 Rank: 17)
    Not only can Austin be a complete bear to navigate, but the public transportation is fucked. I have had busses blow past me many times despite the stop being on their route. Not just once... many times. It seems as though drivers only stop if there's enough people waiting to be worth their time? I have no idea. When it comes to driving Austin proper, it probably doesn't actually deserve my final spot... it's busy but not prohibitively so... but I'm putting here anyway because the busses piss me off that much.

One of these days I should make a list that includes foreign cities. But I don't know that my heart could handle even the memory of some of these places!

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Posted on December 5th, 2015

Dave!A couple months ago, my corner of Redneckistan got a roundabout... better known as a rotary (if you live in New England) or perhaps a traffic circle (if you live in other places). Basically, it's an intersection without stops. Everybody yields to traffic within the circle, and enters once it's clear to do so... exiting at the point they need to be.

Ours is a three-way and looks like this...

Snowy Redneckistan is Snowy

Which actually makes it seem more complicated than it really is. The concept itself is quite simple. All you have to do is yield to the traffic already in the circle, then enter when it's safe to do so.

I actually rather like roundabouts. I've used them quite a lot back East and they're everywhere in Europe. Once you get used to them, they're pretty awesome... keeping traffic moving efficiently without the need for stopping when you don't have to.


Roundabouts are most effective when you keep two things in mind...

1) They can only be used where pedestrian traffic is at a minimum or non-existent. They idea is to keep traffic moving, and you can't do that when cars are constantly having to stop for people wanting to cross the street.

2) They need to be kept clear of obstructing traffic. Again, you can't keep traffic moving if there's a cross-street nearby... or a train crossing... or a turnout... or a place traffic is entering... or anything else that's going to cause drivers to have to stop, thus blocking traffic.

And can you guess what we have at our roundabout?

That's right, both of those things.

1) It's inarguably the first (maybe second) busiest pedestrian intersection in the entire city. At the top of the circle is the only bank in town where most everybody does their banking. To the south is downtown (or what's left of it) which is where everybody shops. That means you get pretty heavy pedestrian traffic as people are wanting to cross at all three exit points on the circle on a fairly regular basis, thus trapping drivers inside and backing things up.

2) As if that weren't a good enough reason to not put a roundabout in the middle of town, the fact that there's a fucking RAILROAD CROSSING 350 ft. to the left of the circle would do it. There's also the exit from the bank parking lot on the left... not to mention the entrance to the bank's drive-through on the right side.

So, essentially, traffic gets a little fucked up all day long because of pedestrians wanting to cross.

And traffic gets totally fucked up several times a day when a train blows through town. I can't tell you how many times things have been backed up so badly that I've actually reversed course and went out on the highway to get home because it's faster than trying to wade through the utter disaster going on at the roundabout.

But fucking traffic armageddon is not even the worst of it.

People here simply don't know how a roundabout even works.

They either come to a full stop when they shouldn't because the circle is completely clear or... much worse... don't fucking yield when you're in the circle trying to get through it. I've been nearly-nailed more times than I can count. And the people who almost ran into me as I'm slamming on the brakes don't even understand that they were in the wrong.

The whole situation is a testament to idiocy, and there's not a day that I'm in the vicinity of the damn thing that I don't get pissed off all over again.

I'd run for mayor and make the stupid stop, but it would be entirely too much work to deal with the stupid that's already been done.

And the last thing I need is more work.

Or more stupid.



Posted on October 28th, 2014

Dave!It never ceases to amaze me how a city known for its rain consists of a population who has no idea how to drive in the stuff.

Today my commute to work which is usually 30-40 minutes took a mind-boggling 1-hour 45-minutes... assumably because motorists lose their damn minds any time it rains more than a sprinkle.


Google's traffic map was lit up like a Christmas tree with accident reports this morning, leaving me no clear route to take. So I bit the bullet, headed to the heinous mess that is the 405, and sat in traffic for over an hour. Absurd.

Though I did get free entertainment when somebody drove clean off the road for no reason other than they were probably texting or brushing their teeth or slicing strawberries for their oatmeal, or whatever the fuck it is people do that causes them to drive off the road.

Hey! Here's an idea... maybe if people would pay attention to the damn road when weather conditions are less than optimal and allowed a little more room between cars and slowed down a bit and sliced their strawberry garnish at home... everybody could get to work only ten minutes later than usual instead of an hour plus.

Just a thought.

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Posted on June 5th, 2014

Dave!I have been a lot of places and seen a lot of horrible traffic. Every major US city has some traffic problems due to the sheer volume of cars and trucks and things that go on the roads. But there are definitely cities worse off than others. Los Angeles is pretty much the gold standard for horrible traffic. San Francisco isn't much better. Boston has ensnared me more times than I can count. Some of the worst traffic I've ever seen was spotted as I was trying to drive into Atlanta one day. New York is an obvious target but, to me, never seems to be as bad as people think.

But, in my humble opinion, none of these cities compare to Seattle.

Seattle traffic is hellaciously bad and in a league of its own.

Most of the reason is simple geography. The bulk of Seattle is surrounded on three sides by water... Lake Washington to the East, Lake Union to the North, and Puget Sound on the West. You can't add "ring roads" around Seattle to alleviate congestion because there's no place to put them. The rest of the problem is just the sheer volume of vehicles on the road. Auto density in Seattle is absurdly high, and no matter how the city tries fix the problem, people love their cars too much to give them up.

And the problem isn't limited to Seattle, as the traffic there bleeds out into surrounding areas as people do whatever they can to avoid driving in the city.

Which makes driving to SeaTac airport a real crapshoot.

Technically, the drive takes 2-1/2 hours for me if the traffic isn't horrible. But since the traffic almost always is horrible and you never know how many times you'll have to stop for road construction, I leave anywhere from 30 to 60 minutes early. Most of the time I'm glad I did. But today the traffic was merely "bad" and not horrible at all...

SeaTac Traffic

18 minutes to drive 12 miles is practically lightspeed so far as Seattle traffic is concerned.

And so here I am, sitting at the airport with two hours and 45 minutes to kill before my flight. If only I had known, I would have stayed in bed an extra hour.

But you just know the day I sleep in is the day that a truckload of fish overturns on the 405 and backs up traffic for an hour.

Stupid fish.

The good news is that I have plenty of time to eat at Qdoba for breakfast. Sure the line is always long but, unlike Seattle traffic, it moves fairly quickly.



Posted on June 12th, 2013

Dave!I know I've bitched about them before... but, after driving through Seattle's horrendous traffic again today, I'm more enraged than ever at the money being spent for these ridiculous "Smart Signs" that are popping up everywhere. They're have got to be one of the stupidest fucking things I've ever seen.

The idea is that "Smart Signs" will slow traffic so that everything flows more smoothly during peak traffic times. But, in reality, the signs are always 10-20 miles per hour faster than the speed anybody can actually reach. This makes them effectively useless...

Seattle Smart Stupid Signs

Here I am going 10 miles per hour in a 30 miles per hour zone.

So what fucking difference does it make if, instead of paying for these very expensive digital signs, there were much cheaper traditional 60 MPH painted signs on the side of the road? I'll tell you what... NO FUCKING DIFFERENCE AT ALL! These "Smart Signs" aren't doing shit. Except costing taxpayers absurd amounts of money. Slow traffic is slow traffic and you'll go however fast the traffic allows. No magical signage is going to change that. End of story.

But the "Smart Signs" keep going up.

Not that smart, Seattle.

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Posted on July 26th, 2011

Dave!There are four streets I drive on to get to work.

Two of them are closed for construction. This basically means that I have to take two detours twice a day. For the most part, I don't mind, because it's (supposedly) going to make it easier to get from Point A to Point B. At least it will in three months or so when they finish. I don't pretend to understand why they can't WORK EVERY DAY AND GET THE SHIT DONE (instead of showing up seemingly at random whenever they feel like it)... but I guess that's how it works.

As inconvenient as the detours were this morning, that wasn't the most irritating thing about my commute. That would be the mommy-jogger-walkers.

These inconsiderate morons jog down the street THREE-WIDE pushing GIANT STROLLERS. One of them on the sidewalk, two on the street. This alone blocks both foot and auto traffic in one direction... but they don't stop there. They are also WALKING THEIR DOGS, which are wandering all over the place, making them even more of an obstruction.

I didn't have my phone handy as I was forced to follow them down the road. Instead I had to take a picture of them down the street after I parked...

Jogger Mommies

Now, in this photo, the two on the left are jogging single-file because a car was revving up behind them wanting to pass. But when I was behind them, they were side-by-side, effectively blocking the entire lane and not even attempting to share the road. I ended up having to wait for a break in oncoming traffic so I could go around them.

Far be it for me to berate somebody for trying to stay fit... but what a bunch of assholes.

It wouldn't be so bad if they were all jogging single-file on the side of the road... or if they were JOGGING THE SPEED LIMIT... but oh no! They totally don't give a shit that they are taking over THE ENTIRE STREET and causing a backlog of traffic. They're more important than people trying to get to work in the morning, so they just say a big FUCK YOU to motorists and do whatever the hell they want.

Which makes me wonder how long it will be before some pissed off person who's late for work runs them all down in the street.

Hopefully it won't end up being me.



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