We suffered through bank bailouts, car manufacturer bankruptcies, mortgage defaults, and high unemployment, but there was a bright side to the past few years: traffic congestion has been down below its peak 2007 levels, according to traffic chronicler Inrix's latest National Traffic Scorecard.
Inrix, which uses 1.6 million vehicles to collect traffic flow data, notes that traffic congestion during commute times showed a significant reduction during the recession. But as a sign that the economy is turning around, traffic is starting to get worse.
Overall congestion was reduced by one third in 2009 from 2007 levels, but Los Angeles, New York, Washington D.C., and Philadelphia all showed minor increases in traffic, rebounding from previous lows. Inrix notes that traffic increases in Washington D.C. and Las Vegas can be attributed partly to road construction projects began with stimulus money.
As for the top 10, Los Angeles, New York, and Chicago still have the dubious honor of holding the top slots.
New York also has five of the nation's 10 worst bottlenecks. Inrix notes that the most congested road in the country, the Cross Bronx Expressway/I-95 Southbound at the Bronx River Parkway, experiences 94 hours a week when traffic moves at only 11.4 mph.
Inrix provides traffic flow data that appears in GPS devices from TomTom, Garmin, and Navigon, navigation systems from car companies such as Ford, BMW, and Mercedes-Benz, and on Microsoft and Mapquest online map sites.