After a one-year dip that attracted global attention, traffic congestion again is worsening in the Salt Lake City metro area — but it is still better than in three quarters of the world’s large cities.
Congestion in the Salt Lake area now ranks No. 321 globally out of 416 large cities measured in the annual TomTom Traffic Index, produced by the Netherlands-based navigation software company.
Local congestion increased by 2 percentage points in 2019.
A year earlier, the company had said the Salt Lake area was a rare place globally where traffic congestion had decreased in 2018 (from 19% extra time spent on the roads to 17%) as its population boomed. The 2019 study saw it bounce back to 19%.
Last year, the index praised such things as Utah’s first-in-the-nation system to better coordinate traffic signals, plus expanding rentals of electric scooters and bicycles.
TomTom officials also had noted that the Utah Transit Authority had expanded its rail and bus offering in recent years. And it had praised some innovations by the Utah Department of Transportation to handle rush-hour congestion such as “flex lanes” on 5400 South in Taylorsville that reverse the direction of some lanes during the day.
But the decrease was short-lived.
The new study said that during the typical afternoon rush hour in the Salt Lake metro area now, congestion adds 14 minutes to what would otherwise be a half-hour commute. The morning rush hour is not as bad — and adds 8 minutes to a typical half-hour commute.
During the year, it said Salt Lake drivers spend an extra 85 hours stuck in traffic, or 3 days and 13 hours. It notes that is enough time to watch 57 football games, or to knit 21 hats and four sweaters.
The study notes that Salt Lake congestion is less on freeways and major highways than on local roads. Typical congestion on major highways adds 10% extra travel time, while congestion on local roads adds 23%.
For what it’s worth, the study said the worst Salt Lake area congestion in 2019 occurred on a snowy Wednesday, Feb. 6 — when congestion added 57% extra time to trips. The least congested day was Sunday, Jan. 3, when congestion added only 3% extra time.
Besides the No. 321 global rank now, TomTom ranked Salt Lake area congestion at No. 49 in North America among 93 areas measured and No. 39 in the United States out of 80 in its study.
The study said congestion here is similar to that found in Charlotte, N.C., and Dallas, Texas — and Helsinki, Finland; Jeddah, Saudi Arabia; and Durban, South Africa.
For its study, TomTom collected 221.6 billion miles of data in 2019 — equivalent to 79 trips between the Sun and Neptune.
The five most congested cities in the United States were: Los Angeles (where congestion increased travel time by 42%), New York City (37%), San Francisco (36%), San Jose, Calif. (33%) and Seattle 31%.
The least congested cities in America are: Greensboro-High Point, N.C. (9%), and Akron and Dayton, Ohio and Syracuse, N.Y. (tied at 10%).
On average, Americans spend an extra 2 hours and 23 minutes in traffic each week.
The most congested cities in the world were: Bengaluru, India and Manila, Philippines (where congestion increased travel time by 71%); Bogota, Colombia (68%); Mumbai, India (65%); and Pune, India and Moscow, Russia (59%).
Correction: An earlier headline misstated the national congestion ranking for the Salt Lake metro area.