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Traffic jam ( photo)
Traffic jam ( photo)

Traffic may be getting worse, but it’s a good indicator of a rebounding economy.

That’s the latest from Kirkland-based traffic data company INRIX, which just released its sixth annual Traffic Scorecard Annual Report. The company found that after two years of declining traffic congestion, including a 22 percent decrease in 2012, gridlock is increasing through the first few months of 2013.

“Fears over recurring fiscal deadlines and ongoing debt issues last year likely fueled declines in traffic congestion, with businesses and consumers alike taking a ‘wait and see’ approach,” Bryan Mistele, INRIX CEO, said in a press release. “While bad news for drivers, the gains we’ve seen in the U.S. and a few countries in Europe in 2013 are cause for some optimism about the direction of the economy.”

INRIX also calculated the top 10 worst traffic cities, and noted that drivers wasted an average of 42 hours in gridlock during 2012:


Seattle finished in eighth, spending an average of 35 hours in traffic for 2012, which is actually down 10 percent from last year. That doesn’t necessarily mean there are fewer jobs here — in fact, the latest numbers show Seattle’s jobless rate dipping below six percent for the first time in more than four years. Perhaps more of us are ditching the car and busing and biking to work instead.

INRIX also pointed out that worst times to be on the road are weekday mornings between 7-8 a.m., and weekday evenings between 4-5 p.m. The busiest morning commute hour is Tuesday from 8-9 a.m., while the busiest evening commute is on Friday from 5-6 p.m.

inrix3INRIX, ranked seventh on our GeekWire 200 startup leaderboard, has more than 200 customers, including navigation providers like Garmin, automobile manufacturers like BMW and Internet mapping companies like MapQuest. It employs 275 people worldwide.

In the Seattle area, commuters come in contact with INRIX every day and probably don’t even know it. Its data is used by the Washington State Department of Transportation to notify drivers on digital billboards of how long it will take to reach certain destinations. Seattle’s KOMO 4 TV also uses the company’s information for traffic reports.

Several of the top traffic apps on Android and iPhone — including MapQuest Mobile, Telenav and Navigon — use the company’s information. INRIX also offers a free and premium version of its own mobile app which has recorded more than two million downloads on iPhone and Android and is also available on BlackBerry and Windows Phone 8.

inrixtrafficINRIX, which spun out of Microsoft, is driving toward an initial public offering and recently hired a new chief financial officer to help guide the way. Saul Gates, the former senior vice president of finance and chief accounting officer at Coinstar, is now leading the company’s financial operations.

INRIX has also been bolstering its board and management team in recent months. At this time last year, it hired Tracy Daw, who previously served as RealNetworks’ chief legal officer, as general counsel. Last November, the company named former Microsoft CFO John Connors to its board, following the appointment of former Blue Nile CEO Diane Irvine in July 2012.

The company raised a $37 million round of venture capital and purchased its largest European rival for $60 million in 2011. INRIX is led by Mistele, the former general manager of Microsoft’s automotive group.

A few months ago, the company signed a deal with Windermere that marks a bit of a new direction for INRIX, which has historically sold its traffic data to auto manufacturers and navigation device makers. Is real estate the next frontier for INRIX?

Here’s an infographic the company put together to visualize the latest traffic stats:


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