on the road again?

Houston drivers have the 4th worst commute in America, study finds

Houston drivers — here's your validation for your road rage. Photo by Manuel Velasquez on Unsplash

For better or for worse, it's finally been confirmed – Houston traffic is among the worst in the nation, according to a new study by Forbes Home.

Houston ranked No. 4 in the Forbes study, which analyzed 25 of the largest U.S. cities to discover the average commute times for workers. Using 2021 U.S. Census data, the report determined the average time spent traveling to work in Houston is 30 minutes, which is only the ninth worst commute time out of all cities on the list.

"No amount of personal playlist songs, audiobooks, podcasts, commuter coffee, or glove compartment snacks can make a tough commute more pleasant," the report said.

While the COVID-19 pandemic brought commuting to a halt for most workers, about 74 percent of Americans are back to making those early morning and afternoon drives to-and-from their employers. Work-from-home rates have continuously dropped since 2020, which isn't helping the rise in commute times.

Houston has nearly 1.75 million workers over the age of 16 living within the area, and only 4.6 percent of households don't have access to a car. Unless workers live very close to their jobs, it's otherwise pretty difficult to walk or bike to work in such a gridlock-stricken city.

It surely doesn't help that the study cites Houston's (unfortunate) fame for being the No. 1 most stressful U.S. city for workers as having a hand in its overall ranking. Add commuting to that list of stressors, and it all equals an unhealthy effect on the working population.

"Research by the National Library of Medicine has found that the longer the commute time, the less satisfaction with work and life as hours spent commuting daily can contribute to a decline in mental and physical health," the report said.

Elsewhere in Texas, Dallas (No. 9) and Fort Worth (No. 10) both made it into the top 10 with their respective commute times of 29.70 and 26.80 minutes. San Antonio ranked No. 16 with an average commute time of 25.40 minutes. Austin, surprisingly, ranked No. 18 overall with an average of 27.90 minutes.

The top 10 U.S. cities with the hardest commutes are:

  • No. 1 – Nashville, Tennessee
  • No. 2 – Charlotte, North Carolina
  • No. 3 – Jacksonville, Florida
  • No. 4 – Houston, Texas
  • No. 5 – Washington, D.C.
  • No. 6 – New York City, New York
  • No. 7 – Boston, Massachusetts
  • No. 8 – Los Angeles, California
  • No. 9 – Dallas, Texas
  • No. 10 – Fort Worth, Texas
The full report can be found on forbes.com.

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This article originally ran on CultureMap.

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A View From HETI

Houston could have ranked higher on a global report of top cities in the world if it had a bit more business diversification. Photo via Getty Images

A new analysis positions the Energy Capital of the World as an economic dynamo, albeit a flawed one.

The recently released Oxford Economics Global Cities Index, which assesses the strengths and weaknesses of the world’s 1,000 largest cities, puts Houston at No. 25.

Houston ranks well for economics (No. 15) and human capital (No. 18), but ranks poorly for governance (No. 184), environment (No. 271), and quality of life (No. 298).

New York City appears at No. 1 on the index, followed by London; San Jose, California; Tokyo; and Paris. Dallas lands at No. 18 and Austin at No. 39.

In its Global Cities Index report, Oxford Economics says Houston’s status as “an international and vertically integrated hub for the oil and gas sector makes it an economic powerhouse. Most aspects of the industry — downstream, midstream, and upstream — are managed from here, including the major fuel refining and petrochemicals sectors.”

“And although the city has notable aerospace and logistics sectors and has diversified into other areas such as biomedical research and tech, its fortunes remain very much tied to oil and gas,” the report adds. “As such, its economic stability and growth lag other leading cities in the index.”

The report points out that Houston ranks highly in the human capital category thanks to the large number of corporate headquarters in the region. The Houston area is home to the headquarters of 26 Fortune 500 companies, including ExxonMobil, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, and Sysco.

Another contributor to Houston’s human capital ranking, the report says, is the presence of Rice University, the University of Houston and the Texas Medical Center.

“Despite this,” says the report, “it lacks the number of world-leading universities that other cities have, and only performs moderately in terms of the educational attainment of its residents.”

Slower-than-expected population growth and an aging population weaken Houston’s human capital score, the report says.

Meanwhile, Houston’s score for quality is life is hurt by a high level of income inequality, along with a low life expectancy compared with nearly half the 1,000 cities on the list, says the report.

Also in the quality-of-life bucket, the report underscores the region’s variety of arts, cultural, and recreational activities. But that’s offset by urban sprawl, traffic congestion, an underdeveloped public transportation system, decreased air quality, and high carbon emissions.

Furthermore, the report downgrades Houston’s environmental stature due to the risks of hurricanes and flooding.

“Undoubtedly, Houston is a leading business [center] that plays a key role in supporting the U.S. economy,” says the report, “but given its shortcomings in other categories, it will need to follow the path of some of its more well-rounded peers in order to move up in the rankings.”

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This article originally ran on InnovationMap.

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