Vancouver edges out Los Angeles for worst traffic congestion in North America

Metro Vancouver traffic jams are the worst in North America, according to a quarterly ranking by a global navigation company.

The 2013 TomTom Travel Index released Wednesday shows the Vancouver region has edged out Los Angeles by one per cent for the No. 1 congested city. It claims that Vancouver travel times were 36 per cent longer at peak hours than during non-rush hours.

The Amsterdam-based company says it uses real-time data from millions of its GPS customers to track traffic flow. The company then uses a computer program to compare travel times during non-congested periods with travel times in peak hours.

The difference is expressed as a percentage increase in travel time, and the report takes into account local roads, arterials and highways.

Choke points in Vancouver include entrance roads to bridges such as the Knight Street, Oak and Lions Gate bridges, as well as downtown roads such as Georgia, Dunsmuir and Seymour.

Vancouver’s congestion has increased 2.8 per cent in comparison to the index’s 2012 second-quarter findings when the congestion rate was 32.7 per cent, the report says.

Among Canadian cities, Toronto ranked seventh in the index and Montreal placed 10th out of 169 cities surveyed worldwide.

TomTom says the cumulative delay for average commuter with a 30-minute trip is an extra 93 hours, or more than 11 working days, spent behind the wheel each year.

Richard Walton, chair of the Metro Vancouver Mayors’ Council on Regional Transportation, has previously cautioned that the TomTom report data could be skewed if people using the navigation systems are using them because they are on the most congested routes.

In 2012, well-known Reuters blogger Felix Salmon criticized TomTom’s index as “pretty useless” because of several flaws in how its data is collected.

According to Salmon, those flaws include that TomTom’s data is gathered from people who use its GPS devices, who may not be representative of the population as a whole, and that people are more likely to use a GPS device when they don’t know where they’re going rather than on routine commutes.

Salmon also noted that the way TomTom’s index is calculated actually penalizes more compact cities because each city’s index is expressed as the relative increase in travel times during congested periods.

“If you have a 45-minute commute in Atlanta, for instance, as measured on a congestion-free basis, and you’re stuck in traffic for an extra half an hour, then that’s 67% congestion,” wrote Salmon. “Whereas if you’re stuck in traffic for 15 minutes on a drive that would take you 15 minutes without traffic, that’s 100% congestion.”

The top cities for traffic congestion in North America are:

1. Vancouver

2. Los Angeles

3. San Francisco

4. Honolulu

5. Seattle

6. San Jose

7. Toronto

8. Washington

9. New York

10. Montreal

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