Seattle took its place as the fifth most traffic-congested U.S. city in a national ranking released by the Tom Tom navigation company.

Share story

Seattle took its place as the fifth most traffic-congested U.S. city, in a national ranking released Tuesday by the Tom Tom navigation company.

Drivers in the metro area spent an average 89 hours of last year delayed in traffic jams, and an evening commute that should take 30 minutes at the speed limit averaged 53 minutes, the company’s data found.  The quickest commutes are Friday morning and Monday evening, while the slowest are on Thursday afternoons. Congestion increased 4 percent for the year, Tom Tom said.

These numbers are no surprise to local commuters, and they fall in line with other measures by the Washington State Department of Transportation, and the Kirkland-based INRIX data company, who both see rising congestion in the post-recession economic boom here.  INRIX ranked Seattle ranked eighth-worst in the U.S., as of mid-2014.

There are a number of reasons for this. Commuter trips have grown by thousands into the South Lake Union area of Seattle, while road capacity stayed the same, and in some cases is reduced by ongoing construction blockages. Congestion is also worsening on I-405 from Lynnwood to Bellevue, where the state will soon add a toll lane for drivers to bypass the congestion, rather than a general lane to spread the entire traffic load.

In some cases, government leaders have abandoned the goal of uncorking general traffic, in favor of transit lanes to promote a shift toward bus use, as well as lane-shrinking “road diets” to improve pedestrian safety.  Seattle’s waterfront setting and vigilant neighborhood groups make road widenings difficult within the city and  close-in suburbs.

Tom Tom’s top 10 most congested cities are Los Angeles, San Francisco, Honolulu, New York, Seattle, San Jose, Miami, Chicago, Washington, D.C., and Portland.  It also ranks Seattle 46th slowest among 146 world cities studied, while Vancouver, B.C., placed 20th.