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In the Fast Lane

Most of the time, most business travelers neglect to think about rush hour in the city they’re traveling to until they’re stuck, sitting in traffic, and praying they’ll make their next meeting — or their flight.

If only you knew ahead of time that traffic starts to back up at 4 p.m. in Atlanta. Where you live, things start to get thick around 5 p.m. A quick Mapquest check shows that the trip from Santa Monica to LAX is a snappy 12 miles and should take about 20 minutes. That might be true at 3 a.m., but between 4-7 p.m., you can dial that speedometer down to a snail-like 30 miles per hour and expect to be on the road for 40 minutes. And in San Francisco, any local will tell you that driving on Highway 880 from Oakland to Silicon Valley is the next best thing to camping out — you’ll want to bring food and a change of clothes.

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To help you plan ahead for your next business trip, I have compiled a rush hour reference — consider it your road gauge — to give you a few handy guidelines about motorized comings and goings in eight major cities. A future installation of Transit Authority will feature eight additional cities. All of this information can be found in greater detail in the city guide sections of the Business Travel Almanac.

City Rush Hour Worth Noting
Atlanta Into the city from the west (I-20) and north (I-75/85), 6:30-9 a.m.; from the east (I-20) and south (I-75/85), 78:30 a.m.

Out of the city heading north (I-75/85) and west (I-20), 4-7:30 p.m.; heading south (I-75/85) and east (I-20), 4:30-7:30 p.m.

Heaviest traffic is in the Central Perimeter area on I-285 between I-75 and I-85 heading west between 3:30-8 p.m.

During rush hours, traffic is very congested around the city and (especially) on major highways. Traffic is heaviest on Friday afternoon, particularly heading toward Buckhead. When traffic is flowing, however, it flows fast.
Boston Into the city, 7-9:30 a.m.; out of the city, 4-6:30 p.m. Logan Airport is all about traffic and construction, both to and from the airport and within the airport itself. Two tunnels, the Callahan Tunnel and the Ted Williams Tunnel, connect the airport to the city. The Big Dig can complicate the drive given the occasional construction snarl on the city side, but as new tunnels continue to open and work is completed, the drive will ease substantially.
Chicago 6-9 a.m. and 4-7 p.m. Rush hour in Chicago runs in both directions and starts around 3 p.m. on Friday.
Dallas Into the city, 7:15-8:30 a.m.; out of the city, 4:30-6:30 p.m. For a major city, rush hour in Dallas is relatively mild. The heaviest traffic is along the LBJ Freeway/635; North Central Expressway/75; and Stemmons Freeway/35.
Detroit Into the city, 7:30-9:30 a.m.; out of the city 4:30-7 p.m.
Houston Into the city 6:45-8:30 a.m.; out of the city 5-6 p.m. Inside the Loop, Houston’s rush hours are from 6:45-8:30 a.m. and 5-6 p.m. Rush hour is heavier and longer heading in both directions along Interstate 10 (the Energy Corridor) near its intersection with the Loop. Try to avoid this area if possible.
Los Angeles 6:45-10 a.m. and 4-7 p.m. Rush hour traffic runs in both directions but is somewhat heavier into the city in the morning and out of the city in the evening. If you are driving within the metro areas, a conservative good rule of thumb is to double the travel time during rush hours. When you hear a radio announcement for a Sig Alert on a specific highway, it means a big back-up because one of the traffic lanes has been closed for more than 30 minutes, usually because of an accident.
Miami Into the city 6:30-8:45 a.m.; out of the city 4-6:30 p.m.

Obvious Disclaimer: The above information is offered as a general guideline only. Ranges and times are approximate.

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