It’s not your imagination — the rush hour crawl up I-95 or out State Road 836 really is awful and if you lived in Orlando or Tampa or even Atlanta you’d probably already be home. On the other hand, Honolulu is worse — karmic balancing for all those luscious beaches, right? So are Seattle and San Jose. And let’s don’t even get started on Bucharest or Istanbul.
Yes, our paranoid suspicions about the hideous horrible awfulness of South Florida traffic have now been scientifically confirmed. The Dutch navigation and mapping company TomTom, in its annual report compiled from 14 trillion GPS reports, declared Miami the seventh-most congested city in the United States.
And we’re getting worse. Miami’s congestion has increased every year since the TomTom Traffic Index was first published in 2008.
“But San Francisco has increased more,” consoled Nick Cohn, TomTom’s senior traffic expert. “And San Jose, too! So it could be worse — much worse if you start looking at places like Mexico City, which is twice — twice! — as congested as Miami at peak hours. Everybody thinks their traffic is the worst, but it’s not true. Well, unless you live in Mexico City.”
125 hours stuck in traffic annually is time Miami commuters will never get back.
TomTom surveyed traffic data from 295 cities around the world and assigned each one a congestion rating that compares travel times from an hour when there’s no traffic — say, 3 a.m. — to the rest of the day. Miami’s rating of 28 means it takes, on average, 28 percent longer to travel our roads when there are cars on them than if they were empty.
That might not sound too bad but the number skyrockets past 40 during morning rush hours and past 60 when all those idiots and swine are jammed up ahead of you in the evenings.
Interestingly, it’s honestly not as bad as you probably think on Miami’s highways, where the rating is only 16. But on regular surface roads, it jumps to 36. Bottom line: Our traffic costs you 125 hours a year when you could have been at home, cackling about the bad weather up north or curse the Dolphins’ play-calling.
Oh, and if you were out driving around on Dec. 3 of last year, extend yourself heartiest congratulations for not blowing your own brains out. That was the most congested day of the year on our roads. Why? Perhaps because it was Miami Art Week.
There are some bits of good news embedded in the TomTom Traffic Index. One is that there are ways to beat, or at least sneak around a bit of, Miami traffic. Changing your commute hours or varying your route even slightly can make a big difference, says Cohn.
“Miami has some serious hot spots where traffic always jams up at the same time,” he said. “But some arterials are not jammed up all the time. What that says to me is the same people are traveling the same route at the same time and sitting in the same traffic jams.
“It’s incredible that in this age of telecommuting and flexible work hours, we still have these incredibly wasteful rush hours. Basic traffic-engineering theory tells us that if we could just move 5 percent of the traffic off of the worst-congested routes, we would be able to significantly improve the travel times of everybody, even the drivers who we don’t move.”
Here’s the other good news: You don’t live in Washington, D.C., which has undergone some perverse inversion of traffic values that suggests we should probably just wall it off so it doesn’t infect the rest of us. The city finished No. 8 on the TomTom study, just behind us, and the Washington Post’s story complained: “ ‘We’re number eight!’ is not the chant of champions.”