I live and work in Northern Virginia and most of my friends and family are in various parts of Maryland (yes, I am a transplant, but I’m MD ‘till I die!), so of course I make my way around the 495 beltway quite often. Over the years, I’ve discovered that I hate traffic (surprise, surprise) and for some reason this area has a whole lot of it. According to Inrix, a provider of traffic data and information, Washington suffers from the worst traffic congestion in the nation, with drivers spending more than three days a year caught in traffic. Now, in the larger picture I must say that it’s a good thing because our congestion is mainly due to our strong economy- but, gosh it’s a pain!
Over the years I’ve picked up a few tricks to try to avoid the area’s horrendous traffic, and I wouldn’t be the amazing person I am if I didn’t share, right?!
1. Work around traffic
If you can, get a work schedule that works against the traffic. I am lucky enough to work for a company that allows me to come in at 6:30am and leave at 2:30pm. I leave home and work before traffic even starts!
2. Avoid rush hour
As a rule, I just avoid the beltway between the hours of 8:00am -10:00am and 4:00pm- 7:00pm. Of course there are times when this can’t be done, but I try to schedule dinners and outings with my friends after rush hour.
3. Plan ahead with a little help from traffic cameras
With all the construction going on in Northern VA (I-66 and 495S) it doesn’t hurt to do a quick check on the area’s traffic cameras with www.wtop.com or www.trafficland.com just to make sure the coast is clear or pick a new route if it’s not.
4. Use social media
Twitter is a great resource. In addition to following your local news stations, VDOT (Virginia Department of Transportation) has a twitter account (@511northernva) that gives up to the minute traffic reports on the Northern VA area.
5. Google Maps on your smartphone
Sometimes you are blindsided by traffic, you had no clue there was an overturned tractor trailer and you find yourself in a sea of red tail lights moving two miles an hour. But you are in luck! I would say most of us have a smart phone and if you have an Android, iPhone or Blackberry it already comes loaded with Google Maps. You can get a live colored coded traffic map of the area. The map shows heavy congestion in red, moderate congestion in yellow and light congestion in green. You are able to see how long the slow moving traffic will last and re-route yourself if necessary.
Now, I know we all have our little tricks when it comes to navigating the traffic in this area, what are yours? What areas do you avoid? And secret routes you know about? Do tell!