Anyone unfamiliar with New York City driving may not understand the fuss over the George Washington Bridge politically-motivated lane closures that led New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie to hold a nearly two-hour press conference Thursday morning to apologize . Just how bad was the traffic?
As it turns out, pretty bad. At 9 a.m., during the worst of the traffic snarls, it took 16 minutes to travel the four-mile stretch, compared to 6 minutes on a typical day, according to traffic data provider INRIX. Speeds, meanwhile, fell in half at that time, from a typical speed of 50 miles per hour to 26 miles per hour.
The below chart shows travel times on the I-95 approach to the George Washington Bridge on Sept. 9 (orange bars), the first day of the closures, and Sept. 16, after the lanes were re-opened (green bars).
"The first day was probably the worst because no one was ready for it," says Jamie Holter, traffic analyst at INRIX, in an email to U.S. News. "People drive like robots and probably had no idea it was coming."
Strangely enough, INRIX's data also show that the evening rush on that stretch barely increased travel times during the lane closures; once the lanes were re-opened, however, travel times during the evening rush actually worsened.
As for the strange improvement in the evening rush, Holter explains, "It wasn't as bad in the evening because they were prepared and probably took a different route home not knowing what to expect."
Then again, New Yorkers who thought that traffic jam was bad may at least be thankful that they don't live in Los Angeles, Honolulu, San Francisco or Austin. According to INRIX, those are the only U.S. cities where traffic is worse than it is in the Big Apple.