Vancouver second most congested city in North America

Vancouver traffic

TomTom today announces the results of its 2012 Congestion Index, which measures traffic congestion in 161 cities across five continents and compares it to congestion levels in 2011. The annual Congestion Index also examines the congestion in 59 metropolitan areas with a population of more than 800,000 across North America, and found Vancouver continued to be the most congested city in Canada.

On average, journey times in Vancouver are 33 per cent longer than when traffic in the city is flowing freely and 68 per cent longer during evening rush hour. Although ranked 10th overall, Montreal’s evening peak is the third worst across North America, with an average 71 per cent longer commute than when traffic in the city is flowing free.

TomTom’s Congestion Index is the world’s most accurate barometer of congestion in urban areas. The Index is uniquely based on real travel time data captured by vehicles driving the entire road network. TomTom’s traffic database contains more than six trillion data measurements and is growing by five billion measurements every day. The average congestion level for all the North American cities analyzed between July and September 2012 is 18 per cent.

The 10 most congested North American cities, ranked by overall Congestion Level, in 2012 were:

  1. Los Angeles (33%)
  2. Vancouver (32%)
  3. Honolulu (30%)
  4. San Francisco (29%)
  5. Seattle (26%)
  6. Toronto (25%)
  7. San Jose (25%)
  8. Washington (25%)
  9. New Orleans (25%)
  10. Montreal (25%)

“TomTom’s Annual Congestion Index provides accurate insight into the world’s most congested cities,” said Ralf-Peter Schäfer, Head of Traffic at TomTom. “This detailed knowledge of the entire road network, helps businesses and governments make more informed decisions about how best to tackle and avoid congestion. TomTom’s world-class traffic information also helps drivers get to their destinations faster. Significantly, when used on a large scale, TomTom Traffic has the potential to ease congestion in cities and urban areas by routing drivers away from congested areas”

The methodology used in the Congestion Index compares measured travel times during non-congested periods (free flow) with travel times in peak hours. The difference is expressed as a percentage increase in travel time. The Index takes into account local roads, arterials, as well as highways. All data is based on actual GPS based measurements.

As well as assigning and ranking the overall congestion levels of over 161 cities around the world, the report analyses the congestion levels in cities at different times of the day and on different days of the week. TomTom analyzed capital cities as well as cities with a population of over 800,000. In addition, a selection of key cities with smaller populations was included based on their regional importance to the transportation network. The purpose of adding these smaller cities was to provide a better understanding of congestion levels within individual countries.

Individual city reports include more detailed information such as the most congested day, time delay per year for commuters and congestion levels on main and secondary roads.

What is the Solution?

Naturally building more roads is not the answer, just look at highway king Los Angeles. The key is to have an all inclusive transportation plan for the region and not just Vancouver. That being said, when it comes to mega transportation projects, Vancouver should be the regions priority. It is the financial, employment, educational, cultural and social hub of the region. If transportation (roads, transit etc..) into the city was improved but remained the same within city limits, all you will be doing is creating further congestion as the city will not be able to handle the additional capacity. Build more rapid transit in Vancouver and more LRT south of the Fraser.

The truth is Vancouver started to build its rapid transit network at a late stage in the city’s development and now it’s playing catch-up and the funding for such projects just isn’t there. Our transit system is good, but it can be better and definitely cover more of the city.

Increasing density around transit nodes is another real solution to the congestion problem. To encourage users to take transit it has to be accessible and fast. Buses just don’t cut it and extra density should be allowed all rapid transit stations.

Implementing policies that improve density and rapid transit is the only way Vancouver will be able to get out of this traffic nightmare.

Image via Mark Woodbury/Flickr

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Vancity Buzz Staff Your inside source for Vancouver happenings. Established 2008.

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  • tek

    Toronto is still the king for traffic volume. It may take us a while to get places in Vancouver via car, but it’s still nothing compared to these other cities.

  • Andy

    Vancouver is in a unique scenario, I don’t believe this is an accurate depiction of real traffic congestion. It’s measuring the time it takes to get from A to B. For one, Vancouver doesn’t have a freeway system, so of course it’s going to take longer only travelling on primary roads. Secondly, Metro Vancouver’s population is very spread out, coupled with little freeway infrastructure – that’s going to increase travel time. Those factors should be brought into consideration. If it’s taking us in Vancouver the same time (or a little less) to travel home on major roads, as it is to travel on freeways in LA – to me that’s not a result of congestion.

  • Sam

    I’m not sure if it’s logistically possible, but freeways and additional bridges would likely help a bit.. overpasses have done a lot for other big cities such as Calgary.

    But I do think that rapid transit is necessary, and perhaps making transit more affordable because $7.50 each way for 3 zones makes driving worthwhile

  • Vancity Buzz’s Ken Chan

    In other cities, they have done a much better job with their arterial roads and highways. We definitely can’t say the same for Vancouver.

    These arterial roads and highways hold much of the cross-municipality/cross-region traffic. But in the City of Vancouver at least, the few major streets and arterial roads we have take up the entire traffic loads. The traffic spills aimlessly into all of the streets because we’ve got no highways and few major roads.

    The City of Vancouver’s black and white anti-road policy might be doing more harm than good. Even the European cities that Vancouver often refers to (like Copenhagen) have amazing road and freeway systems that complement their well-developed transit systems.

    It’ll only get worst if the Georgia and Dunsmuir Viaducts come down. They carry 40,000+ cars each day, and the City of Vancouver somehow thinks it’ll be a great idea to get rid of them and transplant that traffic down into the city streets below. With more cars at street level, how does that exactly make the stadium area, Chinatown, and the rest of the Downtown peninsula more pedestrian and cyclist friendly?

    Same goes for Broadway if we get rid of several road lanes and place street level LRT there. I’m not saying we should be necessarily building more roads, but we should be preserving and making the best use of what we already have – the city and region will only continue to grow. We should be making our existing road system as efficient as possible. It should be common sense.

  • munx

    No. It’s measuring the relative difference in travel time between free flow and congested travel from A to B. If it takes you 20 mins with no traffic and 30 mins in congestion then that’s a 50% increase in time. They then rank cities based on this increase.

  • Dew-Jones Thomas

    Okay. Transit planning is a major focus of my interests. Therefore, I have a few key concerns to share. First, Implementing a system of congestion charges would help to raise necessary funds for new transportation infrastructure. Second, developing better distribution of population density in accord with the projected transportation infrastructure, and providing wider diversity of housing opportunities both spatially and economically will help to ease traffic congestion. Diversifying economic potential would also include a range of travel times, reducing the change in traffic congestion between peak and non peak hours.

  • Sean

    For the Broadway LRT part, you might be wrong. If there is no LRT, then people would just choose to drive. But with LRT and less traffic lanes, then people would know that taking the LRT along Broadway would be the most feasible option. And skytrain won’t help, of course, because with the line underground, drivers would not be discouraged because the traffic wouldn’t be as congested as Broadway with a street-level LRT.