Traffic Tricks and Tips

800px-Bangkok_traffic_by_g-hatGridlock traffic during the 5pm rush hour commute is everyone’s worst nightmare – the road boiling over with angry and frustrated drivers who cut each other off, everyone trying to get ahead, hurling insults at one another.  We all just want to go home! That 40 minutes would take 15 any other time of the day, so it seems like forever when you are inching forward only a foot at a time.

All over the country, five days a week, we make a slog like this, a grim and wasteful commute to work that ruins our mornings and sucks away our evenings.  It’s a stressful ritual we cannot seem to get around. 

Here are some quick facts about our nation’s ridiculous commute:

  • According to the US Census Bureau, the average American commutes 26 minutes each way to work everyday 
  • That time has gone up 20% since the 1980s
  • Collectively, that amounts to 1.8 trillion minutes in the car each year1

Which cities have the worst commutes? Here is a list of the worst 10 for annual hours of delay (not total drive time) per commuter for U.S. metropolitan areas:

Washington D.C.:  82 hours

Los Angeles, Long Beach, Santa Ana: 80 hours

San Francisco, Oakland: 78 hours

New York, Newark:  74 hours

San Jose: 67 hours

Boston:  64 hours

Seattle:  63 hours

Chicago: 61 hours

Houston:  61 hours

Riverside: 59 hours

What are doing about the increasingly long commutes?

Digital message boards notifying motorists about accidents, drive times, upcoming road construction, obstructions, bad weather, and detours, allows drivers to take alternate routes or to slow down before they get to an obstruction.

Ramp metering it seems ineffectual, but spacing out the cars actually speeds up total flow and reduces accidents. However, it’s expensive and time consuming for cities to add traffic lights at every on-ramp. Cost benefit analysis, anyone?

Carpool Lanes

The obvious solution is to get more people in fewer cars.

Here are some tricks to try when it comes to getting where you are going:

  • Try an app called Waze. It’s mind-bending how good it is, though it will take you down some alleys, it will shrink your time for sure.
  • Maintain your car – tire pressure, functional lights, and brakes. Avoid stalls!
  • Grab a friend and carpool!
  • Change into comfortable clothes before you leave from work- the drive will be so much more relaxing if you’re in sweat pants and a t-shirt.
  • Make calls. Or turn the music up and dance sitting down.
  • Shift your working hours back and hour.
  • Listen to audio books, the news, and podcasts while you drive.
  • Organize you day while you drive by using voice memo software (or a simple digital recorder) to go over your To Do list.
  • Join a gym near your work, and hit it hard when you clock out. 
  • Biking solves both the travel and the exercise in one go.

If you can’t find another method to get to work, make the best of it and come up with as many creative alternatives as you can.  That way, you are actually making good use of the time instead of wasting it.