Is Toronto traffic really the worst? New study reveals surprising worldwide ranking

Daily travel times on the Gardiner Expressway have been growing exponentially since rehabilitation work began on the aging roadway. Mayor Olivia Chow says work continues to find ways to speed up the three-year construction project.

By Michael Talbot

If you’ve ever seethed behind a steering wheel on a sardine-packed Gardiner Expressway and boldly declared that Toronto traffic is the worst, you’re guilty of hyperbole.

A newly updated Global Traffic Scorecard ranks Toronto as the 17th most congested city in the world, far behind gridlocked behemoths like New York, Mexico City, London, Paris and Chicago, which made up the top five spots.

But just because things could be worse, doesn’t mean Toronto traffic isn’t bad.

The city ranked first in Canada for congestion, and eighth overall in the Americas, with the average driver wasting 63 precious hours trapped in congestion in 2023.

“On the individual commuter level, hours lost reflects the impact of congestion on the typical driver and commuter on the roadway,” the study by INRIX states.

“In terms of hours lost, New York, London, and Paris still took the top spots with 101 hours, 99 hours, and 97 hours lost, respectively.

As the study notes, Toronto was one of the cities that saw a troubling double-digit spike in lost hours year-over-year.

“Some major urban areas like Bogota, Boston, Miami and Toronto all moved up significantly from last year with double-digit increases over 2022.”

But while traffic congestion undoubtedly wastes time and money, it can also be seen as a sign that an area is thriving economically.

“The movement of people, goods and services creates demand for road travel, but when demand exceeds the supply of road space, it results in congestion,” the study stated.

“This means that while traffic congestion has a negative impact to the economy, it’s a symptom of economic activity.”

The study also found the majority of major cities now have more traffic congestion than before the COVID-19 pandemic.

“During the onset of COVID-19, many downtown areas saw an immediate reduction in traffic due to mandated business closures, a large shift to remote work and adherence to health regulations on group gatherings. While the drastic changes that occurred in Spring 2020 still impact transportation today, a’ “’new normal’ continues to be established,” it said.

“Compared to pre-COVID times, 54 per cent (512) of urban areas experienced more delay in 2023 than in 2019.”

At the same time, about 41 per cent are still below pre-COVID levels in terms of traffic.

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