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Los Angeles beats New York -- in traffic congestion

The bad news -- Los Angeles remains America’s No. 1 city for traffic congestion. The good news -- congestion has actually eased lately (wait for it…) thanks to higher gas prices and job losses. A recent study shows that Los Angeles' traffic congestion dropped by 24% in 2008.

Rainy night on the Hollywood Freeway There are three reasons that L.A. wins this dubious competition year after year -- population, low-density housing and fewer mass transit options. The annual study is conducted by Inrix, a Kirkland, Wash.-based research organization that provides real-time historical and predictive traffic information to TV stations and other clients around the country.

According to a report by Forbes.com, here's how Inrix currently ranks U.S. cities -- from most to least -- in terms of traffic congestion: Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, Dallas/Ft. Worth, Washington, D.C., Houston, San Francisco, Boston, Seattle, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Phoenix, Miami, San Diego, Denver, Baltimore, San Jose, Detroit and Riverside-San Bernardino.

Each of the top 20 most-congested cities experienced a decrease in traffic over the 2008 calendar year thanks to the failing economy. The two largest area decreases were Riverside, with a drop of 57%, and Detroit, where congestion decreased by 47%. The mortgage crisis in Riverside and the Detroit auto industry meltdown are cited as the reasons for the thinning traffic in those locales.

"We're seeing economic impact across the board," says Scott Sedlik, vice president of marketing at Inrix. "Traffic is a great indicator in terms of keeping the pulse of [a city's] economy."

To get a closer look at L.A.'s worst SigAlert magnets, check out Jalopnik.com's Google Earth maps of the intersections in the nation's 20 most traffic-congested cities.

They rank the “trouble spots” of each area, and the 101 Freeway seems to cause the most problems in L.A.:

1. Hollywood Freeway/US 101 & Vermont Avenue

2. Hollywood Freeway/US 101 & Los Angeles Street

3. Hollywood Freeway US 101 + Spring Street

What's the absolute worst time to be in your car on an L.A. freeway? According to Inrix, it's 5 p.m. on Thursdays.  But for those of us ready to complain about tonight’s commute, perhaps we should just be happy we have a job to drive to and gas in our tanks that didn't cost $4.50 a gallon.

-- Joni Gray

Top photo: A rainy night on the Hollywood Freeway. Credit: Richard Vogel/Associated Press

 
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