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Drivers in cities around globe facing more traffic jams, study finds

Motorists are stuck in a traffic jam during rush hour along the main business district in Beijing, China, March 22, 2024.
Motorists are stuck in a traffic jam during rush hour along the main business district in Beijing, China, March 22, 2024.

A survey of global traffic patterns 2023 released this week showed 78% of the world’s urban areas experienced worse congestion than a year earlier.

The survey by INRIX, a data analytics company, found that only 19% of urban areas experienced improvements in congestion last year. About 3% remained the same.

The highest traffic delay times were recorded in New York, London, Paris, Mexico City and Chicago. The study noted large populations and increased demand for car travel as reasons for the congestion.

New York City drivers were delayed by an average of 101 hours per driver in 2023, while drivers in Milan lost only 60 hours on average per driver.

The United States also saw increased traffic heading into the hearts of its largest cities in the part of the study that tracked year-over-year trips to downtown areas. Manhattan saw a 13% increase, while Atlanta, Philadelphia and Washington each saw increases of 7%. Germany and the United Kingdom instead saw decreased trips into downtown areas. Berlin saw a particularly large drop at 17%.

The methodology included examining the time needed to arrive at major employment offices from nearby communities using observed trips.

A hybrid work schedule implemented by many companies after the COVID-19 pandemic took hold also affected city trips. The United States saw more trips into downtown areas on Fridays, while Germany and the U.K. saw a higher number of commuters earlier in the workweek, although downtown trips dropped in Germany on Thursdays. The U.S. also saw concentrated periods of travel during midday hours.

The U.S. Federal Transit Administration also tracked public transit for 295 urban areas, and it reported an increase of 90% in the use of public transit since 2022. Only 9% of areas have seen increases in public transportation, though, since pre-COVID-19 times. The U.K. national railroad system saw a 21% increase in use from 2022 to 2023, but its usage was still down 12% from times before COVID-19.

The study showed cycling becoming more popular than driving in the busiest downtown areas of Paris. In the United States, cycling as a means of commuting is 9% below its pre-COVID-19 levels, though it increased 19% from 2021 to 2022.

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