Worst Cities in the World for Traffic
The New England Patriots just brought home their third Super Bowl ring in five years, and it looks like the Red Sox have a promising pitching lineup going into 2019 spring training. Boston's universities and medical facilities are regularly ranked best in the world, and its legacy of political royalty is unparalleled. But this month, the city earned another notch in its belt of superlatives, and locals won’t be beating their chests about this one: worst traffic in the United States.
A Traffic-Stopping Analysis
INRIX, a transportation data firm that publishes annual rankings of urban traffic and congestion around the world, released its Global Traffic Scorecard last week (inrix.com/scorecard). The study identifies and ranks mobility and traffic in more than 200 cities in 38 countries, analyzing lost time due to congestion as well as the severity of the congestion and reasons for it. When it comes to spending time in gridlock at peak hours of morning and evening commutes, Boston drivers took home top prize for 2018. (Well, if they can ever manage to get home, that is.)
To be fair, Boston isn’t alone in its supremely slow-moving misery—it’s an honor shared with Washington, D.C. Both have 15 more hours of congestion per year than Chicago and Seattle. Logic would dictate that New York City and Los Angeles, both infamous for bumper-to-bumper traffic, would come out on top. Chalk the counterintuitive results up to methodology. The study looked at commutes during peak times in the day, and, according to the report, “Los Angeles experiences high levels of congestion throughout the day, but its peak severity is less than Boston.” It also notes that the city has employment across a wider geographic area, preventing severe downtown congestion that more centralized cities experience, which helps explain Boston’s issues. Even with the billions spent on the so-called Big Dig, the decades-long construction project designed to relieve traffic by building a tunnel under the highway, it did nothing to alleviate the gridlock on the city streets, which were originally built for horse-drawn carriages.
New York City has an honor entirely of its own: the slowest city in the U.S., with “last mile” speeds of nine miles per hour. Translation: It’s faster to bike than to drive or take the bus. (L.A.’s last mile speed is four minutes.)
Time Is Money
The Global Traffic Scorecard found that congestion alone cost Americans nearly $87 billion in 2018, an average of $1,348 per driver. When it comes to time wasted, Americans lost an average of 97 hours annually.
As far as the breakdown of losses across the world, the Scorecard ranked cities both by economic impact and hours lost. On the economic scale, the cities where traffic had the most serious impact are, in decreasing order, Moscow, Istanbul, Bogota, Mexico City, and São Paulo. Boston is the only U.S. city in the top ten, with drivers losing $2,291 per year due to congestion. As far as U.S. cities go, Boston is followed by D.C. ($2,161), Seattle ($1,932), Chicago ($1,920), and New York City ($1,859). At $304 per driver, Wichita, Kansas, had the lowest cost of congestion among the U.S. cities studied.
When it comes to lost time, Bogota had the most hours lost globally to peak period congestion: 272 in 2018. That almost makes Boston, the top-ranking U.S. city, look good, with 164 hours lost. D.C. drivers lost 155 hours per year, with Chicago and Seattle trailing not far behind at 138 hours lost in each. New York City, L.A., Pittsburgh, and Portland, Oregon, are only marginally less congested, with 133, 128, 127, and 116 hours lost, respectively.
So next time the hankering for a road trip takes hold, make sure you account for time lost to gridlock when you’re planning your journey.
Conquer the Top 6 Travel Anxieties
It’s happened to the best of us. We have that jolt of panic, just like that classic moment in Home Alone when Kevin’s mom, Kate McCallister, bolts up during her flight, trying to recall whether she locked everything, turned everything off, remembered everything. Most people, of course, don’t leave their kids behind, but the jitters and worries that come with the excitement of zipping off to a distant locale are common to even the most seasoned frequent flyer. To help debunk common fears surrounding travel, whether by plane, train, automobile, or otherwise, we asked the experts to analyze the anxieties that can strike when we embark on a journey, and to suggest in-the-moment exercises or mantras to help ease those nerves. 1. The Fear: My Plane Will Malfunction Tom Bunn, LCSW, a former Air Force and commercial pilot who now teaches a course around conquering the fear of flying, says there are so many back-up systems in place on board an aircraft that there’s very little room for something major to go wrong. “The problem during takeoff, for example, is stress hormones build up because a series of things are happening one after another," he says. "The engines rev, the pitch changes, the engine exhaust sounds, the acceleration pushes passengers back in their seats, the plane bumps down the runway, the overhead compartments shake.” Try This Exercise: The 5,4,3,2,1 exercise helps release stress hormones. Stay in the moment by naming five things you see ("I see a coffee cup"). Then switch to five things you hear ("I hear a fan"). Moving on to touch, what five things do you feel? ("I feel my wedding band"). Go back and repeat each sensory step with four new things, then three, then two, then one. 2. The Fear: Crowds Are Overwhelming/Strangers Intimidate Me As Jean Kim, psychiatry professor at George Washington University, explains it, each traveler has his or her individual agenda, often paying no mind to what others around them are doing. “Depending on one's past history of social interactions, or just one's physiological tendencies towards social anxiety, being around lots of unknown people can trigger one's sense of potential threat and loss of safety,” Kim says. Try This Mantra: "Others around me are feeling this way, too, and they have their own goals today. My goals are: [fill in the blank]." 3. The Fear: Is My To-Do List Complete? Remember Kate McCallister? It's that constant feedback loop: Did I remember everything? Did I bring enough cash? Will my kids be okay? Did I pack enough? Will my luggage make it? And it can be paralyzing. “Everyone increasingly juggles so many responsibilities and data points in today's hectic, tech-driven society that people can feel swamped and overwhelmed and prone to forgetfulness, or anxiety about making mistakes,” says Kim. She suggests advance preparation, like writing a list to follow as you leave. “A general attitude that solutions will still exist even if something that's missing may help.” Try This Mantra: "I can always adapt and find a solution at hand." 4. The Fear: The Unknowns of Weather Weather can make or break some trips. For some, it’s an obstacle to the planned activities. To others, it’s a safety issue, especially when it comes to flying or boating or driving. “The planes we are flying these days can handle any kind of weather, and if the destination airport has state-of-the air guidance systems on the runways, landing can be made automatically in almost any weather,” Bunn assures. Try This Mantra: "My safety is more important than my plans." Or: "There are countless experts making an informed decision." 5. The Fear: I Don't Speak the Language or Know the Culture When this feeling creeps in, it’s easy to stay in our comfort zone, spending most of the time in the hotel or on group tours. That could mean forgoing a rich cultural experience and missing out on meeting new people. “Some discomfort with new social customs or situations or language barriers is normal, especially if you’re someone comfortable with routine and familiarity,” says Kim. “Just remember that it's not the end of the world if you commit a social faux pas or encounter a different way of doing things you don't quite grasp—it's very normal. If you encounter unfriendly people, that's on them and isn't your fault.” Try This Mantra: "When I go with the flow, I broaden my horizons and gain a new perspective." 6. The Fear: I'm Afraid of Getting Sick Planes have a reputation for being a breeding ground for germs. Plus there’s the lack of sleep, an all-too-common consequence of being uprooted from your routine. “While it's true that the stresses of travel and shifting time zones can lower your immunity, and you can encounter bugs that you may have less resistance to in new places, if you are generally in good health you will usually be fine,” Kim says. “Prepare as needed by bringing medications, taking care of yourself with proper sleep and hydration, and investigating health care options where you are going in advance. Mostly any travel-related illnesses are mild and time-limited.” Try This Mantra: "I am capable of taking care of myself and enjoying new experiences, even if I catch a small bug."
10 Travel Tips for LGBTQ Couples
Travel is all about discovery. And while many destinations welcome diverse visitors, not all of them are sure to be friendly toward out-and-proud lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender travelers. On the bright side, members of the LGBTQ community tend to be both adventurous and prepared. With that in mind, queer couples know to flex their travel savvy when pondering their next Valentine’s Day, adventurous getaway, or everyday vacation. Here are some pointers for crafting the perfect—and safe—vacation to suit your fancy. 1. Research Your Short List Step one: Narrow down the top destinations for your next trip. Step two: Be discerning. Ask yourself and your partner what’s most important. Does it matter if it’s OK to show affection in public there? Do you care if that locale has anti-gay laws? (Yes, some countries and municipalities do enforce those laws.) Are you willing to travel somewhere where certain attitudes could diminish the experience? Be sure to research your short list of places, starting with “Before You Go” LGBTI travel advice from the U.S. Department of State, and the Equaldex LGBTQ global knowledge base (equaldex.com). 2. Make Safe Choices Safety is doubly important when traveling internationally, where the local customs and protections may not work the same as at home. Discriminatory behavior or rude comments may occur anywhere, of course. But in a foreign city, the safest response to offense of any kind is to walk away, and avoid any chance at escalation. In a hotel, restaurant, bar, or other establishment, consider notifying management or security if intolerance rears its ugly head. Communication can be the best step for personal protection, and for long-term change. 3. Find Gay-Friendly Businesses Even in the least likely, or most far-flung countries, including those where diverse visitors are not necessarily welcomed, there are LGBTQ-owned or -friendly travel companies. The fastest way to find those preferred tour companies, lodging, local tourism bureaus, airline partners, and more is via IGLTA.org, the website of the International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association. And specifically for hotels, check out TAG Approved accommodations (tagapproved.com). 4. Consider Attending an LGBTQ Event If safety is your travel priority, a Pride or other gay event could be just the ticket. Cities around the world host LGBTQ film festivals. Sports lovers will enjoy the annual Gay Games, World OutGames, and gay ski weeks. And festivals for women, transfolks, and other niche interests build community all year round in various locations. (Check out IGLTA’s robust events calendar at IGLTA.org/events.) 5. Read Gay Travel Publications & Blogs There are many LGBTQ-specific publications, and most have regular travel sections—great for finding vacation ideas. Lesbians will especially appreciate Curve magazine’s frequent travel features, while all devoted travelers can find inspiration in Passport, the only travel magazine reporting for the gay community. There’s also a fabulous list of queer travel blogs, with some especially insightful firsthand destination reports from Travels of Adam, Dopes on the Road, and Two Bad Tourists. 6. Filter Your Search Results Travel search engines are great ways to explore deals and discounts. Fortunately, many of those helpful sites offer filters or specific pages catering to the LGBTQ community—including Orbitz, Expedia, Delta Airlines, American Airlines, and Marriott. You may discover new places to travel with these providers steering you in a more inclusive direction. (You can also track gay-friendly travel providers from their ads in LGBTQ publications.) 7. Visit Destinations’ Tourism Web Resources for LGBTQ Travelers Corporations aren’t the only ones who understand the value of serving LGBTQ travelers. Many destinations also actively pursue gay adventurers. Better still, many have dedicated web pages to inspire visits to their cities and countries. The list of gay-friendly locales is long, especially in North America and Europe. You’ll find robust resources from places including Sweden; Spain; Vancouver, British Columbia; Denver; Fort Lauderdale, Florida; and New York State; and, of course, California (to name just a few). 8. Join an LGBTQ Tour If traveling with an organized tour sounds fabulous, there are several LGBTQ tour companies and travel agencies eager to serve. Women will appreciate Olivia’s array of land or sea tour options (olivia.com), while men can find enticing packages from Zoom Vacations (zoomvacations.com) and others. And among niche-interest tour companies, Wild Rainbow African Safaris (wildrainbowsafaris.com) takes mixed groups of travelers on unforgettable voyages through Africa. 9. Find Local Shows Once you’ve settled where to go, it’s time to focus on what to do. Take the initiative to research performance venues and nightclubs before your trip to see what’s on event calendars during your stay. In most towns with a “gayborhood,” you can usually find fun drag brunches, queer comedy nights, and other live performances that will put you squarely in the local LGBTQ mix. 10. Make Local Connections One of the best parts of living in the digital age is connecting personally with LGBTQ locals prior to a visit. Hop online or on an app like Grindr (grindr.com) or Her (weareher.com) to seek out your destination city, and see who’s there ready with tips for visitors like you. (Just be sure to clarify your intentions right away, since some apps are dating-centric.)
Cheap Flights for Spring
Our friends at Skyscanner have the cure for the winter blues: Now is the ideal window to book airfare deals for March and beyond. Whether your dream spring getaway is an immersion in all things Disney in Orlando, a visit to one of the best budget destinations in Europe, or checking out the latest crop of Broadway shows in NYC, the time to shop for airfares has arrived. Best Time to Book Airfare Skyscanner, the global travel search company offering free search of flights, hotels and car rental, has crunched the numbers and reported that spring travelers will find the best savings by booking eight weeks in advance for domestic flights (that’s right now for March travel) and 12 weeks in advance for international flights (that’s right now for April and beyond). Those windows match Budget Travel’s general tips for finding affordable flight deals, and the worst savings, not surprisingly, will be found by booking one to two weeks in advance. Some Sample Airfares for March 2019 Where will you go next? Skyscanner is reporting some great deals right now, including the following samples (remember, airfares are always subject to fluctuation): Chicago to Orlando r/t: $88 Los Angeles to New York City r/t: $237 Boston to Paris r/t: $330 New York City to Tel Aviv r/t: $595 We recommend you start your spring airfare shopping now, and arm yourself with our best tips for booking, packing, breezing through security, and enjoying your flight.
Federal Shutdown 2019: How Travelers Can Help
With the longest government shutdown in America’s history hitting the one-month mark today, many federal employees and contractors are struggling to make ends meet. Some 800,000 government workers have been furloughed or required to work without compensation since the shutdown began in late December, and though the President signed a bill ensuring they’ll receive back pay once Washington reopens for business, they're still contending with immediately pressing concerns like rent, bills, and how to put food on the table. (Contractors have no such safety net, but last week, a handful of Democratic senators introduced legislation that would secure back pay for low-wage contract earners as well). Here's how you can help. First Things First: What's the Damage? Transportation Security Administration airport screeners are considered essential and required to work, but the organization has seen a decrease in available personnel as the shutdown drags on, with unscheduled employee absences rising steadily from 6.8 percent on Jan. 14 to 10 percent on Jan. 20. The National Park Service is also feeling the burn: An estimated 16,000 employees—80 percent of its total workforce—is currently furloughed, according to the National Parks Conservation Association, and our protected lands are sustaining heavy damage without the proper oversight in place. (Courtesy World Central Kitchen) How Can Travelers Pitch In? Contrary to rumors making the social-media rounds, executive-branch employees like TSA workers aren’t allowed to accept cash tips, but there are other ways you can lend a hand. Hunger is a real issue, and federal employees are leaning hard on food banks, as well as churches and other community organizations. Consider giving time, money, and/or supplies to food pantries working directly with these impacted populations, and look into the on-site resources available to TSA, customs, and Federal Aviation Administration employees before you leave for the airport—you may be able to bring groceries and the like to donate. At the Tampa airport, for example, a pop-up food bank is offering provisions to employees working without pay; local groups in Texas are distributing food to workers right at the Dallas-Fort Worth airport, and in Seattle, there's a donation area on the airport's mezzanine level where non-perishable food and gift cards are being accepted. If your airport doesn’t have anything like that in place, you can still make a difference. Give your business to one of the many private companies providing assistance, whether it’s waiving late fees on bill payments or offering discounts on dining and events, or give your dollars to a group that’s doing the work on the ground. Through his humanitarian organization, World Central Kitchen, chef José Andrés set up a kitchen in D.C. to feed federal employees during the crisis, and he’s not the only celebrity helping out. Jon Bon Jovi’s New Jersey restaurant, Soul Kitchen, is a nonprofit that allows any guest—regardless of employment status—to pay a suggested donation or work a shift in return for a meal. (Both organizations accept tax-deductible donations.) Planning a trip? Look for an Airbnb host participating in the company’s A Night On Us program, which pays executive-branch employees for an extra night, up to $110, for hosting a three-night stay. You can also buy a beer for a federal worker or contractor, or give to one of nearly 2,000 GoFundMe campaigns for people affected by the shutdown.