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USA Today reports that in the thick of the economic downturn — which has hit Silicon Valley as hard as anywhere — remaining dotcom employees in Northern California face an unexpected upside: less-intense traffic for commuters.

While one woman’s commute once took an hour and 50 minutes, she can now drive home from work in a scant-by-comparison 40 minutes. Some Valley-area business leaders say that rush-hour traffic negatively affected productivity, but Alan Pisarski, a demographer who wrote Commuting in America says, “A tremendous economic association exists between congestion and society’s economic health.”

So if you’re on the lookout for the next boomtown or region, don’t watch the stock market, watch the streets. If traffic gets worse, chances are good that business is picking up.

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