Which city has the WORST traffic, really?

I live in Bangkok, Thailand, which has a long-standing reputation for having thw world’s worst traffic problems. While traffic here is most certainly quite awful–mostly because of a complete absence of useful secondary streets-- it’s gotten much better in the last four years. Reasons include:

  1. The opening of the new overheard light rail line, aka the BTS Skytrain.
  2. The expansion of the expressway system.
  3. The repossession of thousands of cars (Thais tend to finance their car buying) right after the 1997 economic tumble.

I firmly believe that Bangkok is no longer the worst traffic city. Maybe top ten, but not the worst. But which one is? Searching on Google for “worst traffic” brings up hundreds of anecdotal claims, but no scientific evaluations. Cities that seem to rank up there in anecdotal evidence are: Manila, Rome, Athens, Sau Paulo, Mexico City, Manhattan, Tokyo, Shanghai, Los Angeles, Bombay, Hong Kong, Delhi, and Lagos.

Can anyone direct me to a site or quote information that makes a scientific study of the traffic in big cities worldwide? And no, I don’t have a strict definition of “worst traffic.” I’d settle for highest average commute, slowest average road speed during rush hour, highest car/road space ratio, longest average daily gridlock, anything really.

Or at least provide me with some amusing anectodes on why you think YOUR city is worst. Actually, don’t do that unless you answer the question too–otherwise we’ll get kicked off GQ and into IMHO…

Thank you in advance for your help.

Dallas makes L.A. seem like a kiddie ride.

Yeah, Dallas is pretty bad. Actually I heard a CNN report in '99 that said that Atlanta had the longest average commute in the US. Having lived in LA I can attest that the “car capital of the world” isn’t so bad because it’s also the “road capital of the world.”

But the worst in the WORLD must certainly be a city with a 10 million-plus population that has 1)motorized traffic and 2)insufficient funds to build a highway system (even a constantly uner-repair one like Dallas) or a mass transit system.

I heard once that Sao Paulo had traffic jams 40 and 50 miles long, but I can’t find a cite for it.

Hmmm… and i thought here in taiwan it’s bad… i suppose taiwan is mostly average-bad, but in taipei… boy, it could compete with dallas…

I think it depends on what you mean by ‘worse’. Do you mean travel times from A to B, sheer amounts of traffic on the road, the flow of the traffic (ie do people use the lanes and indicate properly etc) or a combination.

I have travelled and driven through Rome, Athens, New York, LA, London and many other European cities. Of all of them I’d say Athens was probably the worst followed closely by Rome. Athens is really a combination of sheer volume, travel time and the quality of roads/cars. Add to this the fact that people seem to park their cars ANYWHERE (ie in the middle of streets, on pavements) and the lack of manners/common sense (no offence to our Greek friends intended). It adds up to an aweful experience.

In the US I seemed to find that the volume of traffic was certainly equal but people tend to stick the the road rules and were a little more courtiess than in Europe.

Now in Australia (where I am from) we have huge open plains (no roads) so you can drive anywhere but most people just ride kangaroos around because the are alot cheaper on running costs.

As I said in the OP, I’m open to any definition of “worst” so long as someone can give me a cite, or some facts. Like which city has the longest average commute? Or better yet, which city has the biggest differential between average car speed and average street speed limit?

Oh, and another thing I heard about Sao Paulo: Apparently the rich folks have given up altogether and just rent helicopters. Now THAT’s bad traffic…

I’m comparing some Asian cities to Bangkok, which I only visited once in '97 (right after that crash when the baht exploded to 44). I thought Rome reminiscint of Asia, with people driving all over the place accompanied with a lot of screaming and hand gestures, but didn’t seem as bad. That said I was just a tourist there, and wasn’t trying to commute. although I hitched a ride from the airport into town during rush hour with some Chinese drivers, and it seemed about like Shanghai.

Shanghai isn’t even in the top 10 any more (subways, light rail, elevated roads, etc.) although it can be congested at times and in certain places.

Beijing traffic might be up there in the top 10. Look out Olympics.

I would not put Hong Kong in the top 10.

Taipei, well, I lived there for 12 years. It used to be REAL bad, but I have friends trying to convince me it’s gotten a lot better. Top 10? Dunno.

Anyone from Jakarta? My sister-in-law lives there it it sounds really horrific.

I have been to most of the cities mentioned. I used to think that Bangkok was the worst. I’m afraid that it only takes #2. Cairo is even worse.


Never been to most places you guys are talking about, but I will still put in my two cents.
Paris. Hands down. All those little mopeds darting around in between cars. During rush hour it seems as if there are no discernable lanes and that you’d better be a nimble driver if you aim to get where you’re going.

I believe NavTech’s definition of congestion is based on
what percentage of road surface is covered by car.

That seems like a pretty good definition, to me.

I’ve heard that Toronto and Los Angeles are tied for ‘worst traffic in North America’.

It also depends on what you mean by “Los Angeles”. If you’re talking LA county, there are plenty of freeways where it isn’t that bad at all. LA city is a nightmare.

When I was in Nigeria in 1981-3, Lagos was so congested that, if your licence plate ended with an even number, you could only drive on even-numbered days and vice versa for odd. Of course, in practice what this meant was that people had two sets of plates for their cars. I can’t imagine Lagos having gotten any better - the population has since more than doubled, and it’s on an island. (Does anyone know if they still have the licence-plate system?) Luckily, I was in Kano, which had relatively good traffic flow.

I’m also told that Cairo is pretty awful - a city of 17 million with an infrastructure designed for 2 million.

Where I live now (Saskatoon, Canada), a traffic jam is when you have to wait for someone at a yield sign.

Both Montreal and Toronto are slowly going up the ranks.

With recent construction in downtown Ottawa, it’s getting nasty at rush hour.

From a strictly anecdotal standpoint I’d say that in North America, Chicago is worse than most mentioned. I’ve driven and riden through Toronto, Dallas, Atlanta, San Fransisco, LA, and virtually every Midwestern city but I’d have to say the worst of this bunch is Chicago by a hefty margin. I’ll conceed that I haven’t been to Boston or New York yet which I’m certain rank pretty high on this list.

Of the European Cities I’ve been to, they don’t really even compete with the bad US cities for sheer volume and length of travel time. I’ve been to Dublin, Munich, Zurich, Frankfurt and Salzburg and while each had its spots, I’d have to say they handled it pretty well. Especially the German cities. IMHO European cities traffic issues are caused by the ancient ineffceint road layouts. Too many narrow streets with drastic curves that congest traffic. I assume this probably applies to many other parts of the world, especially Asia.

But as has been hinted at US traffic issues are usually simply due to massive volume and distances congestion. Other countries have fewer cars, but the facilities and network of roads are worse. Still other cities have virtually no road rule enforcement which constantly gridlocks traffic and causes accidents.

I’d say there are many flavors of bad.

Charlotte =X

I can attest to the traffic in Atlanta. My 35 mile commute takes an average of 1 hour 15 minutes… on a good day. So, I spend 2.5 hours a day in my car traveling to and from work. Uggghhh… that reminds me. It’s Friday, traffic is going to be a bear this evening. :frowning:

Well, in terms of sheer magnified travel times, the worst city I’ve ever rush-houred in was San Jose.

The 101 in San Jose is sheer traffic hell. A 10 minute drive any other time of day becomes a 60 minute drive between the hours of 7 and 9 am, or 4 to 6 pm. And downtown San Jose is nearly as bad, with it constant construction, confluences of one-way streets, two-way streets becoming one way, light rail, and sheer volume… OMFG!

I live in LA and picked my residence to avoid commuting with the flow of traffic. But I’ve had occasion to suffer - I think the week I attended a conference at UCLA was the worst… returning to Pasadena in the evening via the 10 and 110 was sheer hell.

New York is a place where you might think traffic is bad, but it’s really not. Tolls discourage people from driving unless they have to, and parking is a royal pain. Traffic is rather slow, sure, but bad? Seldom is it ever.

Paris beats New York hands down. French drivers in general seem to be a little more excitable than those of most Western nations. I’ve also traveled throughout Germany and Austria, where the traffic is not bad at all. Even Berlin was okay. (It’s worth noting that I never actually have driven in Europe; this is all observation on my part.

The worst I’ve seen is Atlanta, but I’ve certainly heard of worse places. I’ve heard that the Shanghai bicycle traffic is pretty ominous, too, and terribly frustrating if you’re driving a car.

The Washington D.C. metro area has really bad traffic, especially where I-95 feeds into the D.C. beltway.