Traffic

Think traffic stinks in the Triangle? Not compared to the other Amazon finalists.

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 trouble spots 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.

Amazon indicated that it would consider traffic congestion when it asked for proposals for a second headquarters, which it said would cost more than $5 billion to build and equip and would employ as many as 50,000 people within 10 to 15 years of opening. In addition to information such as potential building sites, labor and wage rates and degree programs at local colleges and universities, the company asked suitors to “list the ranking of traffic congestion for your community and/or region during peak commuting times.”

But it’s clear now that crummy traffic was not a deal-breaker for Amazon.

The 20 finalists, narrowed from a field of 238 applications, includes cities with some of the country’s worst traffic according to INRIX, including Los Angeles (1), New York (2), Atlanta (4), Miami (5), Washington (6), Boston (7), Chicago (8) and Dallas (10). In fact, the only U.S. cities with the top 10 worst traffic that didn’t make Amazon’s list of finalists are San Francisco (3) and Seattle, the company’s current home, which ranked 9th. Drivers there spent about 55 hours in peak drive-time congestion last year.

Richard Stradling: 919-829-4739, @RStradling

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