The study shows that while traffic is getting worse, it's only doing so a little at a time.
The thing about traffic is that while you're in it, it's an immediate annoyance. You have somewhere to be. You just want to get home after a long day at work. You have to pee really badly -- whatever. That immediacy makes it easy to lose track of just how much of an impact on you it actually has in the grand scheme of things.
For example, a company called Inrix put together a traffic survey that looked at not only how much time people spent in traffic in a given city, but how much that time cost them. So, if you live in Boston -- America's most congested city for the second year in a row -- you lost 149 hours of your life to traffic in the last year. If you live and drive in Chicago or Philadelphia, things aren't much better at 145 and 142 hours, respectively.
In dollar figures, things get even more depressing. That theoretical Boston commuter lost $2,205 just from being stuck in a car for that time rather than working, for example. Add in the cost of fuel and registration, plus insurance and wear and tear on your car, and it all starts to look pretty grim. Where it goes from grim to soul-crushing is when you see that it cost Americans some $88 billion to be stuck in their cars in 2019 alone.
"Congestion costs Americans billions of dollars each year. However, it appears to be stabilizing in some of the country's most congested metros–with delays raising roughly three percent nationwide since 2017," said Trevor Reed, transportation analyst at Inrix, in a statement. "The continued innovation and investment in smarter roadway management is showing early signs of progress."
Interestingly, no West coast cities even made the top five (LA was ranked sixth) for most congested, though the 101 and 5 freeways in Los Angeles did manage to snag the top spot for worst traffic corridors in the US -- draining 80 and 76 hours per year of their precious lifeforce. As an Angeleno, I can attest to the veracity of these figures in particular.
Somewhat unsurprisingly, places that aren't especially population-dense have much less on their plate when it comes to traffic congestion. Wichita, Kansas -- population 390,591 as of 2017 -- is America's least congested city for the second year in a row. Wichitans spent less than two hours in traffic in 2019, and I think we all secretly hate and envy them for it.
So there you go. Feel free to use this as totally airtight evidence for your boss to let you work from home (just in case the threat of coronavirus isn't enough), and if you live in Boston, we're sorry for you. Just remember that eight major cities in the world have traffic worse than yours.