We tend to associate bad traffic with big cities. And to some extent that’s true. Places like LA, DC, SF, etc. are in another league when it comes to congestion.
But once you get down to a certain level, traffic to me seems like it can be somewhat scale independent. That is, you can encounter bad traffic anywhere, even in small towns.
I noticed this again when I was driving around the Midwest last month. One particular town of around 6,000 people I drove through had a lot of congestion on the main highway through town. What I thought would be a quick loop around the courthouse square to check it out turned into more of a detour than I thought. In the middle of the day I even got stuck at a stoplight for multiple cycles, something that rarely happens in even in regions of over one million people outside of peak periods, and usually not even then.
Similarly, Bloomington, Indiana, where I stayed, it not a pleasant place to drive around. It’s not so much that there’s traffic but rather than the street grid is poor, with a limited number of cross-town routes everyone has to use to get anywhere.
It’s true that in terms of total travel time, getting around these places is still a snap because the total distance traveled is very short. Nevertheless, the quality of experience while driving in some, though by no means all, of these places is less than stellar.