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San Francisco is fourth most congested city in the world, says study

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Traffic data startup ranked over 1,000 cities worldwide

Cars crossing the Golden Gate Bridge. ItsaWaB

Despite what some commuters will say, San Francisco does not in fact have the worst traffic in the world. But it’s a close call.

The Washington-based traffic data company INRIX surveyed 1,064 cities on five continents in 2016 and dubbed San Francisco’s congestion the fourth worst in the world. Only New York City, Moscow, and (of course) Los Angeles fared worse.

It’s hard to vet INRIX’s figures, since much of their data comes from drivers using INRIX apps:

We estimate the percentage of time that drivers would spend in congestion in each city at different parts of the day and week, and on different parts of the road network. These include peak, midday, evening and weekends, and highways into or out of the city compared to the inner-city road network. A weighted average is calculated based on trip volume at different points in time and location and the relative size of cities.

According to the INRIX report, the average San Francisco driver spent 82 hours stuck in traffic in 2016. Which, alas, is pretty much how it feels.

Note that this is almost twice as much as the overall U.S. average of 43 hours.

The report goes on to say that on average the city is actually more congested than LA and New York City but the effect is less grave, as “travel speeds are higher” and “speed reduction lower” here. So at least there’s that.

The single worst avenue in San Francisco: Route 1.

Their worst corridor [...] rings in at 31st on the worst corridors ranking. Unfortunately for travelers on this stretch of road, both directions of travel on this road are congested: northbound in the morning, and southbound in the evening.

Fred Hsu

There’s hardly a worldwide consensus on what city’s commuters have it the worst. Forbes previously ranked Mexico City, Bangkok, Istanbul, and Rio as the four worst offenders, and only one U.S. city (LA, of course) made the top ten.

A 2015 study by a GPS device company dubbed Jakarta, Indonesia the worst and put no US cities in the top 10. San Francisco didn’t even make the list of 76 cities, nor in the same company’s 2016 survey.

But San Franciscans who experienced those 82 hours of standstill last year probably aren’t consoled by the possibility that folks in Bucharest have it worse.