(NEXSTAR) – You know when you’re driving through town and it feels like you’re hitting every red light? Every. Single. One. It’s not in your head.
But consider this; The next time you get frustrated with stopping at consecutive red lights in Columbus, just think, you could be in Boston or San Jose.
While we often think of traffic being defined by gridlocked highways and interstates, congestion on main city streets actually make up 60% of traffic delays in urban areas, researchers at Texas A&M’s Transportation Institute found. They set out to rank cities by how often drivers there are likely to hit red.
“American drivers share a common experience – and sometimes a common frustration – with traffic signals every day,” said Luke Albert, an associate research engineer who worked on the study. “We’ve developed a way to compare those experiences from one city to another.”
The researchers looked at 210,000 traffic lights in 101 cities for a week in October 2020 in order to determine a “Traffic Signal Efficiency Index” for each place. What does that number mean? It measure how much more likely a driver is to come across a green light than they are to drive up to a red light.
The national average for all the cities surveyed was 1.7, the report said. That means the average driver is 1.7 times more likely to hit a green light than a red light.
The 101 urban areas were categorized by size of the city – Very large, large, medium average, small average. Columbus, considered to be a large area, ranks slightly above average in terms of likelihood to hit a green light versus a red at 1.77, according to the report.
Cincinnati ranked higher at 2.01, 12th best overall, while medium average cities such as Akron, Toledo and Dayton earned rankings of 1.76, 1.79 and 1.86, respectively.
But many U.S. cities fell far under the average. In Fresno, California, where the researchers said stoplights are performing worst, the score was 1.1. Drivers there had about equal chances of hitting a red or green light. Cleveland fell below average at 1.61 times more likely to hit a green light.
On the other side of the spectrum, drivers in Boulder rarely have to hit the brakes. Their score was 2.6, meaning they see green lights at intersections 2.6 times as often as red lights.
The 15 cities that scored worst, where drivers hit red lights most frequently, were:
- Fresno, California
- Corpus Christi, Texas
- Jackson, Mississippi
- McAllen, Texas
- San Jose, California
- Boston, Massachusetts
- Wichita, Kansas
- Riverside-San Bernardino, California
- Worcester, Massachusetts
- San Diego, California
- Brownsville, Texas
- Providence, Rhode Island
- Tucson, Arizona
- Las Vegas, Nevada
- Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
The 15 cities that performed best, where drivers were less likely to get stuck at red lights, were:
- Boulder, Colorado
- Raleigh, North Carolina
- Omaha, Nebraska
- Jacksonville, Florida
- Greensboro, North Carolina
- St. Louis, Missouri
- Denver-Aurora, Colorado
- Sarasota-Bradenton, Florida
- Detroit, Michigan
- Virginia Beach, Virginia
- Cape Coral, Florida
- Cincinnati, Ohio
- Orlando, Florida
- San Antonio, Texas
- Salem, Oregon
The researchers found that cities with more stoplights generally scored better than cities with fewer lights at intersections.
The study also looked at stoplight performance on the statewide level. Nebraska, Wyoming, Alaska, Colorado, and North Carolina scored highest, while Massachusetts, Main, Nevada, New Hampshire and Rhode Island did worst.
They also noted the timeframe they studied could have impacted results. For example, cities in Louisiana were dealing with power outages in the wake of Hurricane Delta in October 2020, which may have affected signals at intersections.
NBC4 contributed to this story