Los Angeles Isn’t the Worst Place for Traffic and Gas Prices — These Cities Are

Angelenos don't have it as bad as residents in these cities.

There’s nothing worse than a bad work commute. And, unfortunately, heavy traffic and high gas prices are a frequent feature of many American cities. Combined, these frustrating factors can make a very detrimental impact on your quality of life.

To find out which cities have the worst traffic in the U.S. and high gas prices, GOBankingRates analyzed the average commute time and local gas prices in more than 50 of the largest U.S. cities. The results of the study revealed that cities with the best commutes tend to be midsize cities and cities with a heavy college presence, such as Columbia, South Carolina and Ann Arbor, Michigan. However, the study also revealed which cities are the worst. Although Los Angeles traffic is notorious for being terrible, it isn’t the No. 1 worst city for traffic or average gas prices.

Click to See: Cities With the Best Traffic and Gas Prices

Worst Traffic in the U.S.: San Francisco, New York, Chicago and More

Although L.A. traffic is well-known for being bad to the point of being a frequent cultural reference, the city’s average commute time and gas prices aren’t the worst. In fact, San Francisco has higher average gas prices than Los Angeles as well as a longer average commute. The downside is that every California city in the study — San Francisco, L.A., Oakland, San Jose, San Diego, Riverside, Sacramento and Stockton — has average gas prices in excess of $3 per gallon.

That being said, L.A. fares fairly well with its commute time compared to other heavily populated cities in the U.S. The places with the longest average travel time to work include five West Coast cities, three in the Northeast, one in the Midwest and one in the South. Below are the 10 cities with the longest commute times — ranked according to average travel time in minutes — as well as current gas prices per gallon as of March 13, 2019:

RankCityAverage Gas PricesAverage Commute Time in Minutes
1.New York$2.67940.8
4.San Francisco$3.51832.8
6.Los Angeles$3.36230.9
10.San Jose$3.34529.4
Sources: U.S. Census Bureau’s 2017 American Community Survey and GasBuddy  

As you can see in the table above, San Francisco has L.A. beat as a worse city. However, the City by the Bay does have an advantage over Los Angeles when you break down the manner of commuting.

According to the study, workers who took public transportation to work in L.A. spent an average of 49.1 minutes commuting — the 16th-longest amount of time by city. In San Francisco, public transportation commute averaged only 41.6 minutes. The speediest city is Ann Arbor, where public transportation commuting averages only 25.3 minutes. The slowest city is Stockton, California, where commuting via public transportation takes 69.2 minutes, on average.

Also See: We Tracked Our Daily Commutes to Find Out How Much They Really Cost

Cities Where You Lose Money Thanks to Traffic

There have been several studies in the past that looked at the economic impact of congestion in several U.S. cities. For example, INRIX Research publishes an annual traffic scorecard that analyzes congestion and mobility trends across 200 cities in 38 countries. In 2018, the scorecard found that these are the 10 most congested cities in the U.S.:

RankCityCost of Congestion Per DriverCost of Congestion Per City
4.New York$1,859$9.5B
5.Los Angeles$1,788$9.3B
8.San Francisco$1,624$3.4B
Source: INRIX 2018 Global Traffic Scorecard

Although it ranks among the top five cities with the worst traffic in the U.S., L.A. is not the No. 1 city where you lose the most money. When looking at INRIX’s metrics, Boston, Washington, D.C., Chicago and New York all beat the City of Angels.

Learn More: Traffic Troubles and the True Cost of Congestion

How to Save Money on Your Work Commute

If you have to deal with L.A. traffic — or any of the cities with the worst traffic — there are ways you can save.

This might sound obvious, but seriously consider getting either a hybrid or electric vehicle. Their miles per gallon compared to their conventional gasoline counterparts is staggering. For example, the 2019 Honda Civic is a traditional gas vehicle and it ranks among U.S. News’ most fuel-efficient sedans, getting 36 miles per gallon. By comparison, according to Consumer Reports, electric vehicles like the Ford Focus Electric get 107 mpg, the Nissan Leaf SL gets 112 mpg and the Toyota Prius Prime gets 133 mpg.

Carpooling is another fundamental money-saver. Let’s say you have a 10-mile commute to work, with 22 work days in a 30-day month, and you’re driving a 2019 Honda Civic that gets 36 mpg. Based on those assumptions and $3.362 per gallon of gas, it’ll cost roughly $41.09 for a month’s commute. Split two ways, it’s $20.55 a person. But if you split that cost three ways and four ways, the price per person drops to $13.70 and $10.27, respectively.

And lastly, there’s public transportation. But whether this is a money-saving option truly depends on the city. For example, according to Numbeo, a monthly pass for public transportation costs an estimated $100 a month in Los Angeles. That’s double the cost of commuting in the previous hypothetical example.

Keep reading to see the cheapest state to own a car.

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