Traffic Troubles and the True Cost of Congestion

Find out how traffic costs you more than just your sanity.

All across the nation, people have them: drive-time routines. Whether it’s leaving the house at 7:36 a.m. sharp to beat the rush — and the traffic lights — or making a series of calculated moves to get out of the parking garage on time, many Americans are fully versed in the headache that traffic congestion causes.

GOBankingRates decided to dig a little deeper into the true cost of congestion, and find out if it’s more than just your sanity you’re losing.

Read: How Much Your Daily Commute Really Costs

Time Is Money — and You’re Losing It in Traffic

A study released by transport-data company INRIX in 2017 measured traffic across 1,360 cities in 38 countries, converting data like “time and fuel wasted” by waiting in traffic , as well as indirect effects such as higher-priced goods caused by elevated shipping prices.

The bottom line is a burden that everyone bears, not just city-dwellers. These costs totaled $461 billion last year — or $975 per person — among Britain, Germany and the United States, according to INRIX’s study.

Blame It on the 405

For those who live in Los Angeles, it might not come as a shock that the sprawling Californian metropolis topped INRIX’s study for “most total hours per driver lost to congestion at peak travel times in 2017” — with a whopping total of 102 hours.

Angelenos aren’t the only ones dealing with massive congestion — Boston actually has the edge on that — but due to the sheer size of Los Angeles, commuters are stuck traveling longer distances than their New England counterparts. That isn’t the only thing the city is known for, either — Los Angeles is also one of the 15 worst places to live to save money.

Biting the Big Apple’s Traffic Bubble

Coming in a close second for commute chaos is New York, but the Big Apple paints an entirely different picture than Los Angeles thanks to its public transit system.

New York accounts for 41 percent of all rides on public transit in the U.S., according to the study, which means that drivers are opting to take the train versus getting stuck on the expressway — which helps them save on car costs long term. Overall, INRIX calculated that congestion “cost New York $34 billion last year, by far the highest sum in the study.”

On top of being a crux of congestion, New York is also one of the most expensive places to live in America, too — which makes that daily commute even more important.

What Does It Mean for You?

“Congestion costs the U.S. hundreds of billions of dollars, and threatens future economic growth and lowers our quality of life,” said Dr. Graham Cookson, Chief Economist at INRIX. “If we’re to avoid traffic congestion becoming a further drain on our economy, we must invest in intelligent transportation systems to tackle our mobility challenges.”

Click here to read GOBankingRates’ in-depth take on how much traffic costs you.