I knew it! Driving in San Francisco recently, sitting in stop-and-go-traffic for over an hour, I had an inkling this was true. Now, there's some data to back it up.
According to WalletHub, San Francisco ranks as the worst place to drive in the United States. The company looked at 100 of the largest cities like Detroit, Seattle, and Boston and compared 25 different metrics. They analyzed factors like gas prices and time spent in traffic jams, but also included less obvious indicators such as the number of auto repair shops per capita and the number of auto dealerships.
It's interesting to see why San Francisco ranks so low. You're much more likely to have an accident there--it ranks 93 on the list. Car thefts are more likely as well, and San Fran ranks dead last in average car prices. Parking rates, maintenance costs, the number of car dealerships--they all figured into the rankings, and they're all remarkably off-kilter from the rest of the country, explaining why so many people complain about the traffic.
In terms of the best places to drive? Corpus Christi, Texas ranked number one thanks to the sparse traffic, low repair and maintenance costs, and the safety ranking (ninth overall). In fact, of the top ten cities, most of them are in Arizona or Texas.
Some of the most interesting findings have to do with categories like the lowest precipitation and lowest number of auto thefts. Las Vegas is where you want to work if you don't like traffic caused by rain and thunderstorms; head to Portland if you like to keep things dreary and wet. Gilbert, Arizona has the lowest number of thefts. Like to get a car wash every morning? Don't live in New Jersey--it has the lowest number per capita.
Winston-Salem, North Carolina has the lowest parking rates, and Philadelphia has the highest. My hometown of Minneapolis ranked closer to the bottom of the pack at number 76 overall, but at least the ranking for access to maintenance was right in the middle at 50.
Some of the ancillary stats in the rankings also proved interesting. It turns out we spend $124 billion annually ($1,700 per driver) in fuel costs related to sitting in traffic. The average driver spends a whopping 200 hours on the road per year, but we spend 41 of those hours in traffic (or an entire week). We also spend $515 annually on repair costs. The U.S. ranks as only number 14 out of the 130 countries in terms of our infrastructure for roads, according to the World Economic Forum. That's a little surprising, too.
What is it about San Francisco that's so annoying?
I have a few theories. The most obvious reason is that there are two main sections. Silicon Valley is in the south, and the downtown area is in the north. Everyone is constantly trying to drive between them. The Golden Gate Bridge is quite the landmark--but driving on it recently, I realized the lanes get narrow and the view is so amazing that everyone slows down. Then there's the layout. You can use two major highways to get downtown, but only one of the them passes close to the airport and they are both routing you to roughly the same area of the city (that would be Marina District and a couple of Peet's Coffee shops).