North America’s worst cities for traffic

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Which cities have the worst gridlock? TomTom counts them down. There are few things in life that are universally abhorred, but traffic is that great pest that unites us all, infuriating small town drivers and big city motorists all the same.

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Where, though, are tempers running highest? With data from GPS maker TomTom, which compiles an ever-updating list of the most congested roadways in North America, here are the continent’s 10 worst cities for traffic.

* Each city is awarded a Congestion Index score by TomTom as a percentage. So, for instance, if City X’s Congestion Index is 15 per cent, it takes 15 per cent longer to travel through that city with a normal traffic load than it would if there were no cars at all to slow you down.

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A five-way tie kicks off this list, beginning here with Montreal, the first of three Canadian cities to appear on this top 10. Traffic in Montreal is bad, so bad that TomTom has awarded it a Congestion Index score of 25 per cent. This means that it takes 25 per cent longer to drive through Montreal with the city’s normal traffic load than it would if there were no cars at all on the road.

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Overall, driving in New Orleans is far from (the Big) Easy, though there is one time of day when motorists enjoy at least a little relief. According to TomTom, New Orleans’ Congestion Index for its morning commute is just 35 per cent, by far the lowest for a.m. driving on this list. By contrast, New Orleans’ evening commute has a Congestion Index of 57 per cent.

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Like a bill through Congress, traffic in America’s capital moves at a snail’s pace. According to TomTom, Washington, D.C., has a fairly well-moving highway system (Congestion Index: just 18 per cent), but its city core is a recipe for brake lights. D.C.’s non-highway roads boast a Congestion Index of 32 per cent.

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One of three California cities to appear on this list — and, coincidentally, one of five cities from North America’s Pacific Coast to surface on this top ten — San Jose is exceptionally bad for traffic in the mornings. With a 50 per cent Congestion Index during its a.m. commute, only three cities in the entire continent have more congestion during morning rush hour than San Jose.

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Canada’s most notorious city for traffic — home to the worst part of the 401, the Don Valley Parkway and the Gardiner Expressway — isn’t, in fact, the country’s most congested city for motorists. Instead, while its morning peak (Congestion Index: 49 per cent) isn’t very nice, Toronto is just Canada’s second-worst city for traffic. Click through to find out which Canadian city tops it.

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By TomTom’s estimation, Seattle is not only among North America’s harshest cities for traffic, but it’s getting worse, too. By the last time TomTom performed its quarterly evaluation, Seattle’s Congestion Index was 24 per cent. Up two per cent quarter-over-quarter, Seattle’s Congestion Index is the second-fastest growing in all of North America.

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San Francisco’s highways, including the U.S. Route 101 that travels over the Golden Gate Bridge, may offer breathtaking views, but they’re also sure to make your blood boil. According to TomTom, the Congestion Index on San Francisco’s highways is 24 per cent, a figure so high it’s topped by only one city (which we’ll read about soon) in North America.

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The only non-mainland city to appear on this list, Honolulu traffic is not the paradise Hawaii might suggest. Only three cities on this top ten have worse highway congestion that Honolulu, and just one in the entire continent has more slow-moving city traffic than Hawaii’s capital.

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Canada’s worst city for traffic is so congested there’s hardly a good time to drive. In fact, Vancouver is worse than Toronto for congestion in every way, including in the morning and at night (Vancouver’s Congestion Index is worse than Toronto’s during both the morning peak and evening peak, according to TomTom). While Toronto and Vancouver’s highway traffic has similar congestion levels, Vancouver’s 37 per cent non-highway Congestion Index dwarfs that of Toronto (31 per cent).

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North America’s worst city for traffic is Los Angeles, and by many measures it’s not even close. According to TomTom, L.A. has the worst morning peak (Congestion Index: 56 per cent) and worst evening peak (77 per cent) in North America. Think that’s bad? L.A.’s city driving is the worst on the continent, too (Congestion Index: 39 per cent), and its highway driving (Congestion Index: 29 per cent) is a full five percentage points worse than the second-worst city in North America. (MSNCARS)