Traffic is frozen on Tenth Avenue in a typical Manhattan...

Traffic is frozen on Tenth Avenue in a typical Manhattan scene earlier this month. Credit: Bloomberg/Jeenah Moon

The New York metropolitan area ranks as the most congested region in the country, according to a new report, with the average driver losing 101 hours from traffic jams in 2023.

The 2023 INRIX Global Traffic Scorecard found that New York City topped the list of most congested areas, with congestion worsening since before the pandemic. New York City drivers experienced 10 fewer hours lost from traffic jams pre-pandemic than they did in 2023.

The report and other experts said the use of ridesharing, increased online deliveries and a return to in-person work have all played a role in making New York more congested.

INRIX is a private company that provides analysis of transportation data and has issued reports annually since the mid-2000s comparing the most congested areas in the world.

Bob Pishue, author of the INRIX 2023 Traffic Scorecard, said the report measured traffic within the New York City metropolitan area, including Long Island and parts of upstate New York and New Jersey. New York has been “at or near the top” of the scorecard in recent years, an INRIX spokesman said.

Congestion pricing, a plan that would have charged most vehicles $15 for driving below 60th Street in Manhattan, intended to generating income for infrastructure and to cut down on traffic, was paused earlier this month when Gov. Kathy Hochul ordered a stop to the plan three weeks before it was set to take effect.

Pishue said a growth in New York's midday traffic, sometimes even more than at rush hour, played a key role in congestion. And unlike some other cities, he said, New York has more people returning to in-person work post-pandemic, especially to downtown Manhattan.

For employees in the tech industry in downtown San Francisco, two-thirds work from home. But for employees of the same industry in New York City, only 33% work from home while the rest commute into the office, the report said.

Asked how congestion could be eased, Pishue said: “One way is to try to get more people onto [public] transit or telecommuting. And then another is to improve the infrastructure that’s already there by making it more efficient.”

Alec Slatky, managing director of public and government affairs at AAA Northeast, said: “Deliveries play a significant role. We've now been used to getting pretty much whatever we want delivered to our doorstep. But that requires a massive logistics operation in order to have a lot more cars [and] trucks on the road.”

New York City has also seen an increase of 170,539 registered vehicles, or 9%, from 2012 to 2022, Slatky said. Census data shows Long Island has seen an increase of over 105,000 registered vehicles, or 6%, over the same period. 

Sam Schwartz, CEO of Sam Schwartz Pedestrian Traffic Management Service and a former New York City traffic commissioner, said of the report: “We've always had a lot of congestion, but right now, traffic volumes are higher than they have been historically.”

He said the congestion is driven by factors that include fewer people using public transit systems in the city and more using rideshare services such as Uber and Lyft, or even driving on their own. 

“Traffic speeds started to drop, particularly in midtown Manhattan, and that's largely due to the Ubers, Lyft, and other companies that were offering rideshare,” Schwartz said.

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