Is Traffic Really So Bad in Raleigh?

By Brent Woodcox

With talk of Amazon HQ2 coming to Raleigh, there is at least one measure on which we are besting other cities in the running according to the News & Observer: traffic.

When you’re crawling along Interstate 40, it may seem that the Triangle’s traffic isn’t something to brag about to the people deciding where to put Amazon’s second headquarters.

But that’s not true. Turns out traffic in the Triangle stinks less than in all but one of the 20 finalists for Amazon’s HQ2, according to an annual analysis of traffic congestion by the transportation analytics firm INRIX.

INRIX collects GPS data from hundreds of millions of drivers in 1,360 cities around the world to estimate the amount of time they spend stuck in traffic, among other measures of congestion. It then ranks them, with the city with the worst congestion – that would be Los Angeles – at No. 1.

Raleigh comes in at No. 83 on the INRIX list of U.S. cities. INRIX estimates that drivers in the city spent 18 hours of peak commuting time ensnared in “congestion,” which it defines as driving 65 percent or more below the speed of free-flowing traffic.

Durham, which gets its own spot on the INRIX list, came in at 181, better than some unlikely traffic troublespots as Lexington, Ky., and Missoula, Mt. INRIX estimates that Durham drivers spent 10 hours of commuting time in congestion last year.

By contrast, Los Angeles commuters spent an estimated 102 hours in congestion.

Among the 20 places that Amazon says it is considering for its second headquarters, only Indianapolis ranks better in congestion than Raleigh, at 85th. All the others, including relatively small cities such as Columbus (54), Pittsburgh (29) and Nashville (27), have worse traffic problems than the Triangle.
— Richard Stradling - N&O

There is some truth to the idea that Raleigh traffic concerns are overblown. We don't have the same lag in commute times as other well-populated cities do. We also have a large metro area, a fast growing population, a lack of public transit infrastructure and policies that for decades have encouraged sprawl. So, yeah, maybe traffic isn't that bad here, especially when you compare us to larger cities that could potential host a headquarters like Amazon's. But we don't have an Amazon yet. And whether or not we land this deal, we will likely have a company of that size in Raleigh sooner rather than later. Growth does not seem to be slowing down and our policies don't seem to be turning to favor more density. If we don't make a change soon, we'll be shooting up to the top of at least one list we'd rather not be on.

Brent Woodcox