Feb 15, 2022 - News

Chicago is the 6th-most congested city in the U.S.

Chicago highway

Masses of vehicles move slowly during afternoon rush hour on the Kennedy Expressway in 2018. Photo: Patrick Gorski/Nur via Getty Images

Chicagoans spend over three-and-a-half days a year stuck in rush-hour traffic, which is somehow still an overall improvement.

Why it matters: Traffic may be returning, but the pandemic may have shifted when we drive.

By the numbers: According to data from the TomTom traffic index, Chicago drivers spent 86 hours in rush-hour traffic in 2021 compared to 115 hours in 2019.

  • There was a 14% decrease in morning rush-hour congestion, and a 12% decrease in the evenings in 2021 compared to 2019.

Yes, but: Even though rush-hour traffic is declining, the overall time spent on the roadways is going up.

  • Chicago had a 24% congestion level in 2021, which means that travel times on average were 24% longer than during non-congested conditions.

Zoom in: The worst time to travel? Fridays at 4pm.

  • Traffic then dips 15% after the 4pm hour.
  • The most surprising stat is that Mondays are the best day for rush hour.
  • Worst traffic day of 2021? No joke, exactly one year ago today.

Zoom out: Chicago is the 6th-most congested city in the U.S. and the 149th-most congested city in the world.

  • So even though losing three days a year is a lot, it's nowhere near the 123 hours per year that a New York City driver spends in rush-hour traffic.
  • Even NYC doesn't compare globally, as living in Istanbul will cost 226 traffic hours per year (over 9 days).

Quick take: If you hate traffic but love big city life, maybe Minneapolis is more your speed.

  • Residents there sit in rush hour for only 39 hours per year.

How it works: TomTom collected anonymized GPS signals from hundreds of millions of drivers to analyze traffic in 404 cities in 58 countries.

Go deeper: Chicago's page on the TomTom Traffic Index.

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