Tag Archives: Congestion

These are the cities with the worst traffic (continent by continent)

Traffic is a growing problem in many parts of the world, but if you’re going to these cities — pack some extra patience.

In 2004, a company TomTom launched the first personal navigation device, and the world would never be the same. Since then, they’ve sold tens of millions of such devices around the world, and as a result, have access to a trove of data about the world’s traffic. They’ve charted the world’s cities based on how bad the traffic is, based on a congestion score which shows how much extra time you need to navigate that city. A 33% score means you need 33% more time.

We’ll only consider large cities here (over 800,000 people), though TomTom also has ratings for some smaller cities. Let’s have a look at the worst cities overall, and then we can break it down continent by continent.

Worst traffic in the world

  • 10. Beijing (China) — 46%

China’s bustling capital “only” comes in at number ten, despite being the world’s second most populous city proper. Thanks to its national highways, expressways, and high-speed rail network, things aren’t worse, but even these thick veins can’t keep up with the over 21 million people who call Beijing home.

  • 9. Tainan (Taiwan) — 46%

The congestion of this Taiwan municipality grew by a whopping 10% since last year, in part due to tourism.

  • 8. Rio de Janeiro (Brazil) — 47%

Despite remaining stable since last year, Rio’s streets are still a nightmare to drive on. Rio is surrounded by mountains, and that makes traffic management even more difficult.

  • 7. Chengdu (China) — 47%

Unsurprisingly, China’s sparkling metropoles often have massive traffic problems, largely due to the fact that they weren’t designed to fit so many people.

Despite many people cycling, China’s growing cities still have a massive traffic problem. Traffic jam in Chengdu, image in Public Domain.

  • 6. Istanbul (Turkey) — 49%

Despite a slight improvement from last year, the roads of Istanbul are still a chaotic drag to navigate. Traffic jams are a common sighting, as are drivers trying to improvise their way out of a jam and making it much worse.

  • 5. Bucharest (Romania) — 50%

Perhaps surprisingly, the Romanian capital of Bucharest is Europe’s most congested city. Improper city planning and an overall disregard of such problems have made driving in Bucharest worse and worse, after year.

Bucharest does have its traffic, but it’s certainly not on the road. Image credits: Babu / Wikipedia.

  • 4. Chongqing (China) — 52%

The most congested city in China (though not in Asia) is Chongqing, a municipality which was created only in 1997, but now has a population of over 18 million.

  • 3. Jakarta (Indonesia) — 58%

Everyone who’s ever been in Jakarta will tell you its streets are a nightmare. Jakarta’s business opportunities, as well as its potential to offer a higher standard of living, attract people from all over Indonesia, but that’s taking a toll on the streets.

  • 2. Bangkok (Thailand) — 61%

Asia’s most congested city is Bangkok. The city hosts 12.6 percent of the country’s population, dwarfing all other urban centers in Thailand, but also having the obvious downside of bad traffic.

The traffic in Bangkok — sometimes you move, and sometimes… you just don’t. Image credits: Mark Fischer / Flickr.

  • 1. Mexico City (Mexico) — 66%

According to TomTom, the world’s most congested city is by far Mexico City. From morning to evening, the city’s streets are clumped with cars that seem to be going nowhere — and often, they really are going nowhere.

Worst traffic in North America

Congestion is getting worse and worse in America. The average US commuter spends 42 hours stuck in traffic a year, according to a report by the Texas Transportation Institute.

The United States takes seven spots, Canada takes two, but Mexico tops the charts.

  • 10. Portland (US) — 29%
  • 9. Miami (US) — 30%

Rush hour in Miami is absolutely awful. Image credits: B137 / Wikipedia.

  • 8. Toronto (Canada) — 30%
  • 7. San José (US) — 32%
  • 6. Seattle (US) — 34%
  • 5. New York (US) — 35%

Few things are as recognizable as a New York traffic jam, and according to this data, there’s lots of them. Image credits: joiseyshowaa.

  • 4. Vancouver (Canada) — 39% 
  • 3. San Francisco (US) — 39%
  • 2. Los Angeles (US) — 45%
  • 1. Mexico City (Mexico) — 66%. Worst traffic in the world.

This photo by Dennis Mojado sums up the traffic in Mexico City quite nicely.

Along with the mayors of Paris, Athens, and Madrid, Mexico City has vowed to ban all diesels from the city by 2025.

Worst traffic in Europe

The United States takes seven spots, Canada takes two, but Mexico tops the charts.

  • 10. Athens (Greece) — 37%

As the economy finally starts to improve in the Greek capital, the traffic also starts to become rougher and rougher.

  • 9. Manchester (UK) — 38%

Manchester has remained more or less constant in recent years. It’s bad, but at least it’s not getting much worse.

  • 8. Brussels (Belgium) — 38%
  • 7. Paris (France) — 38%

The city of lights, indeed. Due to intense traffic, Paris is also battling pollution and smog. Image credits: Nelson Minar / Flickr.

  • 6. Rome (Italy) — 40%

Rome’s traffic issues are well known, and caused in part by the municipality’s inability to build new roads and subways due to the archaeological ruins. The loads of tourists coming every year to Italy’s capital certainly don’t help.

  • 5. Marseille (France) — 40%
  • 4. London (UK) — 40%
  • 3. Saint Petersburg (Russia) — 41%

Russia seems to have a serious traffic problem. As soon as a city starts to grow, so too does the congestion. St. Petersburg and Moscow, the country’s biggest cities, are two of Europe’s three most congested cities.

  • 2. Moscow (Russia) — 44%
  • 1. Bucharest (Romania) — 50%

Worst traffic in Asia

Six Chinese cities are present in the top 10, though the world’s most populous country takes neither of the top two. It’s interesting that Asian cities tend to clump in a congestion rate of their own — all of the ten most congested Asian cities fit in the world’s top 15.

  • 10. Shenzen (China) — 44%
  • 9. Guangzhou (China) — 44%
  • 8. Changsha (China) — 45%
  • 7. Beijing (China) — 46% 
  • 6. Tainan (Taiwan) — 46%
  • 5. Chengdu (China) — 47%
  • 4. Istanbul (Turkey) — 49%

It’s noteworthy that Istanbul is the only city in all these top 10 which reports a slight improvement, though it’s not clear why this is happening.

  • 3. Chongqing (China) — 50%
  • 2. Jakarta (Indonesia) — 58%
  • 1. Bangkok (Thailand) — 61% 

South America, Africa, and Oceania don’t have data for a relevant top 10, but you can check the existing data here.

Small cities

When it comes to smaller cities (<800,000) people, Europe definitely takes the crown. You have to look until the 19th place to find a congested city that isn’t European. While small cities are definitely not as crowded as bigger ones, they too experience growing congestion, which can become a major problem in future years — and already is one in some places, especially in the UK.

Image credits: TomTom.

Simulate your way out of (or into) the perfect traffic jam

Traffic jams are a universally miserable experience, no matter when or when they happen. There are numerous factors that can cause one to happen. Sometimes, when the cause is clear, say construction works or a car crash that needs to be cleared away, most of us can keep our frustration in check. But when you’ve been spending the last half hour inching your way to an intersection and then passing through without seeing any apparent reason for the slowdown, it’s much, much worse. The pointlessness of it all is enough to bring you to your boiling point.


But there’s always a cause behind the jam, even if not readily apparent. Computer models like Traffic-Simulation are designed to figure out how each traffic component adds towards this infuriating result. The simulation models various conditions such as the number of trucks or cars on the road, average distance and speed of cars, lane geometry and so forth, to explain how traffic jams develop. The idea is to use the simulations to figure out what might happen if traffic patterns shift, and predict problem areas before they happen.

The website was created by Dresden University of Technology Professor Martin Treiber, and can currently model a single scenario, but more features are planned for the future. The ring road was implemented first to illustrate ‘shockwave’ slowdowns — traffic jams that progress through a line of traffic from the first row of cars, as described in this video from the University of Nagoya, Japan:

So even in perfect conditions, with everyone driving at the same speeds, it’s still really hard for everything to run smoothly (except if you’re an ant). Even something as innocuous as adjusting the number of trucks on the road can cause unbelievable congestion in the simulation. So give it a go, try toying around with the variables to find what it takes to make traffic flow merrily along or create the mother of all traffic congestions.

And next time you’re stuck in traffic you’ll have a much better understanding of exactly “why. aren’t. we. moving. forward?!” Not sure that’s going to make the experience any more pleasant, though.