For many people, the daily commute can make or break the day. Miss that morning meeting because of a traffic jam and you’ll feel behind for days. Arrive late to an after-work event from road construction and relationships dwindle.
But there’s hope! Commute times are actually leveling off in recent years – according to the US Census Bureau, the average commute today of 25.4 minutes is slightly lower than the 2000 average of 25.5. The map below shows the areas where travel times are especially high, but there are plenty of communities where it isn’t terrible. Also, according to a recent evaluation by Waze to measure a Global Driver Satisfaction Index, the US ranks as the country with the third best commute.
But as we all know, it doesn’t always feel this way. Here are some tips to do your part to reduce traffic and actually feel an improved commute.
1. Know Your Destination
Donald Shoup, author of the High Cost of Free Parking, and researcher on traffic behavior, notes that an average of 30% of traffic is people cruising for a parking space. These drivers set out on the road without an exact destination in mind, delaying “shopping” for a spot until they are in the vicinity of their destination.
This behavior – in addition to simply being unfamiliar with the final turns of a trip – causes delays that ripple backward. We can do better. With the advent of the smartphone navigation technology, and of course SpotHero, to help you find an inexpensive parking spot, this cause of traffic delay should belong to a bygone area.
Don’t be a part of this 30%. Before your trip, take some time to determine your destination and navigate straight to it.
2. Keep Moving
In the US, the commute is a time for multi-tasking. You’re eating. You’re changing the station, song, or podcast. Avoid the negative consequences of all this by using your cruise control. This way, you’ll avoid the natural slow down that occurs when we shift our focus. Also, think of ways to minimize the amount of resources you’ll need to complete these tasks.
For example, if you’ve scheduled a conference call during your trip, consider using the MobileDay app – which allows easy access to conference bridge lines (no long pins to remember!). You can sign up for a free 14-day trial and use the coupon code 30%OFFBIZ to take 30% off your purchase of MobileDay Business.
3. Eat the Traffic Wave
Ever notice how during traffic congestion, semi-trucks will drive in tandem, blocking others from hurrying to the next set of cars? These truckers aren’t just trying to cause a bad time for the rest of us, they’re applying traffic science and “eating” the traffic wave.
When you speed to a set of cars, and end up breaking upon arrival, you’re contributing to a nasty “wave” of cars that will break behind you. News choppers in the sky can see this behavior unfold, and traffic engineers have tried to encourage people to halt this behavior for the good of the system for years. But for the individual, faster seems better. So we make waves.
Instead, take it slow. Eat the wave by trying to not to use your brakes at all as your approach the next set of cars. Instead of a traffic wave in your wake, you’ll see a a free-flowing group of happy commuters, thanks to you.
4. Think it’ll Take Longer
Many studies have found that it’s not necessarily the time of the commute that causes us stress, it’s the unpredictability of the time. If you thought you were in for a 30 minute commute, but it ends up being 50 minutes, you’ll be more enraged than if you thought it was going to be 60 minutes. So lower your expectations. Think it’ll take the longest, and your commute will frequently be a pleasant surprise.
5. Leave Earlier (or Later)
Our behavior to work in downtown areas at the same time is at the root of our traffic problem. If possible – and if it won’t be detrimental to your work – consider working off the the 9-5 schedule.
6. Zipper Merge
This one can get you in trouble. It’s more efficient to execute the “zipper merge” – merging at the point where a lane is reduced in an every-other-car fashion, as opposed to the altruistic-seeming “early merge” where cars get over near the merge indication sign. Check out the video below to see how it works.
If you use this last tip, be prepared to couple it with your friendliest wave and smile!