EVERETT — The rankings are out, and in 2017 Everett had the worst traffic congestion in the world.
Sort of. It’s a little complicated.
Kirkland-based INRIX analyzes and sells real-time anonymous traffic data collected from mobile devices, commercial fleets, GPS-equipped private vehicles, cameras and other sources. The company’s annual report comparing cities on traffic congestion, released Tuesday, is widely discussed and, it should be noted, brilliant public relations. Everyone likes to complain about traffic, and in the absence of actual relief, we’re happy to brag about how bad our traffic is compared to yours.
There is brilliance, too, in the fact these data can be sliced and diced any way you want. That’s how Everett got credited with “the country’s worst congestion” by a front-page headline in a certain other newspaper.
It’s true — by one narrow measure in the report. In the INRIX news release, Everett stars in a bullet point: “Commuters around Everett, Washington, spent more time stuck in traffic than anyone else, with a congestion rate of 28 percent on highways in and out of the city.” That means if you drove into or out of Everett last year during peak hours — on I-5, the Boeing Freeway, U.S. 2, Highway 529, the major arterials like Evergreen Way — you spent 28 percent of that driving time in congestion.
That 28 percent is not only the worst in the country, it’s the worst in the world, says INRIX spokesman Mark Burfeind. He emphasizes that drivers elsewhere might spend more actual hours stuck in traffic, but as a percentage share of their overall commute, they can’t beat a drive into, out of, or through gridlocked Everett.
“Obviously, L.A., Moscow and New York all rank above Everett in hours spent in peak congestion — commuting times,” Burfeind said. “But Everett drivers spent the largest percentage of their drive time in congestion.”
During peak commuting times in general, INRIX found, drivers here spent an average 21 percent of their time in congestion. On weekdays at noon, Everett drivers were stuck in traffic 7 percent of the time. Overall, drivers were in congestion 11 percent of the time.
So why isn’t Everett at the top of this year’s list? INRIX’s Global Traffic Scorecard uses a lot of other factors in its annual ranking. Overall, Everett ranked 169th out of 1,360 cities worldwide for bad traffic. Among U.S. cities, we’re ranked 32nd out of 297 cities.
Not the worst! But pretty bad.
All this is actually good news. “The reason why we have really bad traffic right now is because the economy is doing so well,” Burfeind said. “The bad part of congestion, obviously, is that folks in Everett spent 31 hours caught in traffic” in 2017, on average.
How do other Washington cities stack up? Seattle and Tacoma were ranked higher (worse) than Everett:
- Seattle is 26th worldwide and ninth in the U.S. That’s pretty bad, and worse than last year, when Seattle was ranked 10th in the country.
- Tacoma is 83rd worldwide and 19th in the nation.
- Spokane is 662nd worldwide and 109th in the U.S.
- Olympia is 808th worldwide and 143rd in the nation.
- The Tri-Cities of Kennewick, Pasco and Richland were 1,294th worldwide and 285th in the U.S.
The absolute worst overall traffic on the entire planet, of course, is in Los Angeles.
Anyone who commutes between Snohomish County and Seattle or Bellevue doesn’t need to be told traffic is awful. But it’s nice to have some data to back up our bellyaching and give us bragging rights.