Rush hour in these US cities cost drivers the most


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Motoring expenses are shark-like in their stealth. You may be wary of the cost of buying a car (average $52,707) and fuel ($1,798 per year). But that’s just the fin of the shark.

The teeth are hidden underwater. A new car loses 10-20% of its value every year. The average cost of unexpected repairs is $1,128. And the toll on the environment is beyond mere dollars and cents.

But there’s more: What about all the other sharks swimming around you? Time wasted in traffic is rarely a consideration when totting up motor expenses. Yet rush-hour congestion drains fuel, time and productivity. We calculated the average annual cost of rush-hour traffic worldwide to be $1,343 per motorist.

Budget Direct commissioned Neomam Studios to find out the number of hours wasted in traffic each year in 418 global cities, including the U.S. cities ranked below. We multiplied these figures by 50% of the average local pay to calculate the dollar cost of lost productivity (based on a study by INRIX that showed every hour in traffic results in 30 minutes loss in productivity). We also used local fuel prices to calculate the cost of extra fuel needed to drive the local average amount of time spent in rush-hour traffic.

The result is Budget Direct’s guide to the cost of rush-hour traffic to motorists in the U.S.

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The cost of rush-hour traffic per driver is a sum of the “value of time lost” + “extra fuel cost.” Studies show motorists place a value on their time relative to their salary and are willing to pay for a reduction in travelling time. Additional studies by CEBR show that the net effect of one hour stuck in traffic is a 30-minute loss in productivity, so we calculated the value of half the time spent in rush hour annually in each city using local salary data.

The number of hours lost to congestion was taken from TomTom’s Global Traffic Index. Hourly pay for each city was estimated on the basis of adjusted net national income per capita by the World Bank.

Fuel costs in each city were estimated as the cost of extra fuel needed to drive the given amount of hours in congested traffic, given the typical fuel efficiency in the corresponding country, the assumed average speed in congested traffic of 20mph/32kmh, the associated 80% increase in fuel consumption and the recent price of petrol in a given city (where possible).

You can find a full list of sources here.

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10. Austin, Texas

Cost per driver: $1,204 USD

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9. Riverside, California

Cost per driver: $1,280 USD

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8. Baton Rouge, Louisiana

Cost per driver: $1,304 USD

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7. Seattle

Cost per driver: $1,308 USD

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6. Miami

Cost per driver: $1,439 USD

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5. San Jose, California

Cost per driver: $1,458

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4. Honolulu

Cost per driver: $1,466

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3. San Francisco

Cost per driver: $1,499 USD

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2. New York City

Cost per driver: $1,626 USD

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1. Los Angeles

Cost per driver: $1,816 USD

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US traffic breakdown

LA tops the table in the U.S., followed at a distance by New York City, with another substantial gap before the trailing pack. But it is not a pack you would want to lead: Los Angelenos pay $2,548 per year for the privilege of sitting in traffic jams for 101 hours each year.

To non-Americans, it may be a surprise to see Honolulu so high in the list of traffic costs. In fact, Honolulu is recognized for its terrible traffic, topping “most congested” studies until recently and clocking up 82 hours of delays in a single, locked-down year.

To see the cost of rush hour traffic in other countries, click here.


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