Study: Chicago Drivers Don’t Have It So Bad

Quit whining Chicago drivers.

Just because you’re stuck in terrible traffic every day on the way to work, a new study conducted by IBM says you don’t have it so bad–at least compared to drivers who live in other cities around the world.

IBM has just released their annual Commuter Pain Survey and according to the over 400 local drivers surveyed, things are really not that bad.

When you compare the experiences of over 8000 drivers surveyed in 20 cities globally, Chicago is relatively pain free, ranking as the 3rd most pain free driving city in the world overall with a Pain Index of 25. This puts the Windy City just two points higher than second place London (23) and least painful city, Montreal (21).

At the opposite end of the spectrum, driving in Mexico City must be hell as Mexico’s capital city got 2011′s bottom of the barrel ranking with a Pain Index of 108, with the Chinese cities of Shenzen and Beijing essentially tied with a Pain Index of 95 for a tie for second to last most painful place to drive on earth.

The Pain Index is made up of ten factors including commuting time, time spent stuck in traffic, price of gas, etc.

Chicago’s ranking by IBM’s study seems to be at least partially at odds with Texas Transportation Institute’s Urban Mobility Study, which named Chicago as having the worst congestion in America back in January.

Chicago was one of six North American cities surveyed–a list that includes New York City, Los Angeles, Toronto, Montreal and Mexico City.

According to the study, of the 406 Chicago-area respondents, 64% drive alone while only 3% of Chicago drivers carpool to work. That 64% puts Chicago drivers near the top for highest percentage driving alone, while the 3% puts our drivers near the bottom for carpooling.

But you can tell Chicago drivers really love driving their cars, as when asked “what is your main mode of transportation for trips other than to work or school?”, 81% of Chicago motorists said their car. Only drivers in Johannesburg, South Africa came in higher with 82%.

On average, Chicago commuters who drive spend slightly over 30 minutes per leg of their commute in their vehicle or 61 minutes per day. That’s just a hair more than drivers in New York City, but 10 minutes less than the poor drivers in Nairobi, Keyna and Mexico City.

Most Chicago drivers leave for work between 7-8 AM (27%) and most return home between 5-6 PM (24%).

But hardcore Chicago area drivers who experience high traffic volume daily might take issue with the findings of IBM’s study.

“Part of Chicago’s top three ranking can be attributed to the fact that, drivers stay off downtown streets – 27% less than the worldwide average and an astounding 61% less than commuters in Beijing,” says IBM’s Sara Delekta Galligan.

Indeed, according to the study, only 36% of the drivers surveyed here say they drive on Chicago’s downtown streets, while 75% of respondents say they drive on suburban roads.

Perhaps most shocking to many veteran local drivers is that 10% of the local drivers surveyed have never been stuck in traffic for the last three years. Never.

Unless this particular 10% represented in the survey commute to work between DeKalb and Aurora from 2-4 AM every morning this seems like a statistical impossibility.

More believably the study says locally, 39% of motorists report having been caught in traffic for 30 minutes or more, 27% for an hour or more, 15% coming in at two hours, and 7% gridlocked in traffic for 3 hours or more.

But based on the data, it seems possible that a disproportionate number of suburban drivers were included in the survey versus drivers located within or adjacent to the urban core of Chicago proper.

But part of IBM’s rankings have to do with how a driver’s commute impacts their overall quality of life, which may also play a part in Chicago’s high ranking.

“Only 19% of Chicago commuters surveyed say that traffic has negatively impacted their performance at school or work,” says Delekta Galligan, “(That’s) compared 43% that said the same around the world.”

Despite the perceptions or beliefs of local motorists on the challenge of their commute, perhaps in a relative sense traffic is much worse other places in the world, as IBM’s study seems to suggest. Overall the study concludes that worldwide drivers are reporting “more stress and frustration” during commutes.

Compared to the emerging urban centers of China, where last year the capital Beijing experienced a nine day traffic jam locking up roads 60 miles in each direction, Chicago’s prolonged travel times seem like a walk in the park.

7 Responses to Study: Chicago Drivers Don’t Have It So Bad

  1. DoR Employee says:

    Well yeah…

    It’s parking in Chicago that’s the Pain.

    We have the worst drivers in the mid-west though….absolutely crass and intemperate and always in a hurry to go somewhere.

  2. This is where super powerful air horns become very handy.

  3. john says:

    Hi. I just bought my car 2 weeks ago and have not picked up my plates yet because I have been busy, but I got a ticket for no vehicle sticker. Everyone and their uncle have always told me that you cant get ticketed for no vehicle sticker with a temp plate. your insight oh grand pooba parking ticket guru guy. Oh yea, and the way our government is spending us into oblivion and kicking the can wayyyyyyy down the road, are we not headed for a BIG CRASH? I mean I am a simple man and I get on my calculator and it just blows my mind, there is no way we can avoid USA filing for bankruptcy, even a mentally challenged person still in the womb can figure out what is gonna happen. The government needs to stop finding ways of stealing from us. Fed up.Oh that reminds me, 1 more question grand parking ticket guy, what is the meaning of life? thanks. Awaiting your reply while I hold my breath……. Hurry, I think I am about to turn blue.

  4. The Parking Ticket Geek says:


    You’re not supposed to get a ticket for no vehicle sticker if you have a temp plate–unless the temp plate has expired.

    If it hasn’t expired, just make the case that your temp plate was still in effect when you were ticketed. Bring in the proper documentation to prove your case and that should be it. Hope this helps.

  5. DoR Employee says:

    Mike…thats not true about the Temp Plate.

    You are not supposed to get a City Sticker ticket if your Temp Plate is Less than 30 days Old.

    Temp plates expire 90 days after they were Issued…


    Issued date : 7/1/09

    Liable for City Sticker Code : 8/2/09

    Expired: 10/03/09

    We at Revenue and CPD and City Clerk Run Plates DAILY to check residency…and we run VIN numbers to find the Info off the DL and State ID of vehicle Owners. The Database TELLS us specifically when the Temp was Issued. More than 30 days….City Sticker ticket is authorized.

    Now…having said that…..

    2 weeks after Purchase…correct…no City sticker ticket should be Issued.

    HOWEVER: Presuming the plate on the vehicle is a TEMP….look at what I just wrote above.

    If the Plate on the Vehicle is a NON-Temp Vehicle Registration Plate (passenger or DOM or FFM or other Specialty or Truck plate…)…this is the rub.

    Permanent Vehicle Plates do not Have a Date Of Issuance with the Sec of State Database that the Police/DOR/Clerk can view on their PTD’s in their vehicles or at their desks when doing a plate search.

  6. Optimus Prime says:

    3-56-021 New city residents or new vehicle purchases.

    Any person alleged to have violated either the license requirement set forth in Section 3-56-020 or the license display requirement set forth in Section 9-64-125 may raise as an affirmative defense that (1) such person resided in the city for less than 30 days at the time he or she was cited for violation or (2) the cited vehicle was purchased less than 30 days prior to the issuance of the violation. If the alleged violator can demonstrate, by clear and convincing evidence, that he or she resided in the city for less than 30 days or owned the vehicle for less than 30 days at the time the citation was issued, and that the appropriate fee was paid in accordance with Chapter 3-56 no later than 30 days following the commencement of city residence or purchase of the vehicle no liability shall exist. A showing of recent residency may be made by a lease, utility billing records or other appropriate documents. A showing of recent vehicle purchase may be made by applicable vehicle registration or title documents issued by the Secretary of State or other appropriate documents. Any person who knowingly provides inaccurate information in connection with this section shall be fined in an amount not less than $500.00 and not more than $1,000.00.

  7. The Parking Ticket Geek says:


    I’m not sure we’re talking about the same violation.

    John was asking about receiving a VEHICLE sticker violation while having temp plates. I don’t think he was talking about city sticker.

    But, since you did mention city stickers, it is my understanding that the city clerk’s office will issue the city sticker whether or not you have a temp plate or not. That’s because they don’t really care if there is a lic. plate number on the city sticker.

    Unless I am recalling this inaccurately, the theory is AutoCites can be equipped to read the bar code on the city sticker and cross check against the Secy. of State database to make sure it’s a legit city sticker for that particular car.

    But, I will double check with my friends at the Clerk’s office to see if I’m losing my mind or not.

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