How Houston Traffic Stacks up with Texas, the U.S., and the World

by Terry Bryant

We all complain about Houston traffic.  Maybe it’s in our DNA. The number of traffic chokepoints grows exponentially, or so it seems. But in the bigger picture, just how bad do we have it compared to others?

How does Houston traffic stack up against other Texas cities, the U.S, the world? Not so good, but not that terrible, either. We do seem to have more than our fair share of construction-site slow-downs. Haven’t the Southwest Freeway and the West Loop been bumper-to-bumper 24/7 since the Johnson Administration?

On the other hand, we can thank our lucky stars we aren’t LA. The City of Angels stands at the very top of INRIX’s Global Congestion Rankings. The group has been assessing 1,360 cities in 36 countries since 2011, recording traffic patterns, rush-hour commutes, and regional traffic congestion. Houston came in as the 11th most gridlocked city in the U.S. and with a world congestion ranking of 37th. INRIX based its calculations on the fact that Houstonians spent more than two days (50 hours total) caught in rush hour traffic in 2017.

Other Texas cities included in INRIX’s world rankings include:

  • Dallas (10th US/28th world) – INRIX ranks the entire DFW metro as one statistical area
  • Austin (14/72)
  • San Antonio (28/297)
  • El Paso (55/711)

A Closer Picture Shows Most of Texas Still has it Better than Houston

A recently released study finds that among the state’s biggest cities, Houston has the second-longest commute time in Texas. Real estate website HomeArea.com surveyed every Texas city with at least 60,000 residents. Based on the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2016 American Community Survey info, HomeArea.com used 2017 data to estimate the average travel time it took for commuters to drive to work. Not all large communities were included – mostly notably Amarillo and Waco – because at the time of the survey some cities did not have sufficient data for the 2017 rankings.

Among Texas’ five largest cities, Houston lands near the bottom with a thud, averaging 27.3 minutes of daily commute per driver. Comparatively, San Antonio residents don’t take quite as long to get to work, shaving almost three minutes off its HomeArea.com commute time, with 24.7 minutes. San Antonio suburb Alamo City, Austin, and Dallas rounded out the top (actually bottom) five. Several Dallas/Fort Worth suburbs dot the next worst group of the HomeArea survey. And another North Texas city – Fort Worth – has the worst commute among the state’s five largest cities, with an average time of 27.9 minutes. But that ranking is skewed because, in 2016-17, both the city’s east-west Interstate (I-30) and north-south (I-35W) were nearing completion of major renovations – Fort Worth’s downtown “Mixmaster.”

The Texas city with the easiest commute: Lubbock. It takes workers only 16.3 minutes to drive to work.

It comes as little surprise that Houston’s streets are some of the most dangerous in the U.S. Some say the most dangerous. On average over the past several years, according to a recent investigative story in the Houston Chronicle, nearly 650 people die on Houston area streets and freeways every year. Rush hour congestion is only part of the story.  And many experts who are quoted in the story wonder how much hope there is for genuine improvement.

If you have been involved in a car wreck in Houston and have any questions about your rights as a victim, the legal team at Terry Bryant Accident and Injury Law is at your service 24/7/365.