It probably doesn't surprise anyone that Los Angeles tops the Texas Transportation Institute's (TTI) list for the worst traffic in the United States. Films, television shows and songs have all poked fun at the City of Angels' traffic issues. And despite what you might have learned from the television show "24," you can't get anywhere in Los Angeles from anywhere else in the span of 15 minutes. In fact, Los Angeles' travel time index is 1.92, meaning you should plan for a trip during peak hours to take nearly twice as long as it would at an off-peak time of day [source: TTI].
According to the 2000 Census, nearly 81 percent of all commuting workers travel to work in a car, truck or van. Of that group, nearly 66 percent drove by themselves -- only 14.7 percent carpooled. The total number of workers was 1,494,895. Most of those driving traveled during peak hours. Los Angeles leads the nation in time wasted by sitting in traffic -- the average Los Angeles motorist spends 72 hours every year in traffic jams [source: TTI]. That's nearly two full work weeks spent staring at the car in front of you and fighting off road rage.
The other cities rounding out the top five on TTI's list include:
California has five of the top 12 areas for the worst traffic congestion. Most experts predict congestion will continue to increase as populations grow. Some cities you might expect on the list, like Boston and New York City, are curiously absent.
Some of these cities are looking into new methods of land use, creating high-density shopping and residential areas that are bike- and pedestrian-friendly. Ideally, these communities will encourage people to travel without getting behind the wheel. Unfortunately, this isn't likely to help alleviate problems in the short-term. It will take vigilance and a willingness to make adjustments for these communities to have a real impact on traffic congestion in the future.
Reducing traffic congestion requires tough and sometimes unpopular decisions from the government level all the way down to the individual driver. As the problem increases, you'll likely see government officials look more carefully at their choices. As bad as traffic is in the United States, it's much worse elsewhere in the world. There's little doubt that American policymakers will watch what happens in other cities to see what might work in the United States.
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